The Census Bureau announced that construction spending rose 0.1 percent in March, revering two months of declines. Private sector construction grew by 0.7 percent for the month, with public sector spending down 1.1 percent.

Manufacturing construction spending increased 1.8 percent, with manufacturers spending $43.7 billion (at the annual rate). While still below the $44.3 billion rate of December 2011, it marks an improvement from January’s drop-off to $42.7 billion. The longer-term trend is also a positive one, as manufacturers put $31.5 billion of construction projects in place in March 2011, a year-over-year gain of 38.6 percent.

Residential and nonresidential construction expenditures were both up 0.7 percent in March. Aside from manufacturing, other nonresidential sectors with growth in March include transportation (up 6.7 percent), office (up 5.4 percent) and lodging (up 5.1 percent). There was declining activity reported with amusement and recreation (down 3.3 percent), religious (down 2.5 percent) and commercial (down 2.2 percent) institutions.

Public sector construction was mixed, with residential spending up 1.4 percent and nonresidential projects down 1.1 percent in March. Nonresidential sectors with the largest monthly decreases in construction activity include water supply (down 4.5 percent), amusement and recreation (down 3.6 percent), sewage and waste disposal (down 3.2 percent) and highway and street (down 2.5 percent). Gains were reported, though, in conservation and development (up 4.1 percent) and health care (up 3.4 percent).

Chad Moutray is chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.

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