Construction equipment manufacturers kicked off 2003 with their largest price increase in six months. January's 0.7% increase left the average price tag for construction equipment 2.5% higher than a year ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is the largest year-to-year price increase recorded by BLS in several years.

January's increases were led by a 3.1% price hike for wheel-type tractors, which pushed prices for this category of equipment 2.6% above a year ago. Prices for highway paving equipment broke over a year-long period of stability with a 1.5% price increase, leaving prices for mixers, pavers and spreaders 1.7% above 2002's level. Prices for shovel loaders increased 0.9% during the month and are up 1.6% for the year. During the same period, tire prices posted a monthly increase of 1.8% and an annual increase of 3.4%.

The largest year-to-year price increases reported by BLS have been for power cranes and excavators. Producers of this type of equipment were able to extend last summer's large price hike with another 1.1% increase in January. Crane and excavator prices now are 8.5% above last year's level.