Construction spending in the U.S. fell by 0.2% in December, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1.181 trillion, according to the U.S. Dept. of Commerce’s Census Bureau. This was a 4.2% increase year-over-year compared to December 2015.
The small month-to-month drop was due to an uptick in private construction spending being offset by a drop in public construction spending. The 0.2% decline in spending comes after November's $1.184 trillion in construction spending, the highest level since 2006.
The strongest performing sector among private construction was housing, which rose 0.5% compared to November. On a year-to-year basis, private construction spending in December, 2016 was $876.3 billion, 6.4% above the $823.5 billion in December, 2015. Public construction declined by 1.7% year-over-year, from 289.6 billion in 2015 to 284.5 billion in 2016.
The year-over-year drop in public construction spending prompted a strong response from the Associated General Contractors of America, which sees a link between a decline in construction spending and slow job growth in the industry. “In some markets, the solution is more workforce development measures, while other markets need new demand for construction before firms will begin adding jobs,” said Ken Simonson, chief economist for the AGC. “In particular, spending on critical transportation, sewage and water infrastructure declined last year.”
Looking to the future, the AGC hopes infrastructure investments promised by the Trump administration may offset recent drops in public construction spending. “The business community is counting on President Trump to act on his pledge to rebuild our aging infrastructure,” says Stephen E. Sandherr, AGC’s chief executive officer. “The fact is, employers can’t compete and succeed if their workers are stuck in traffic and their products are being rerouted around unsafe bridges and crumbling roads.”