The Census Bureau reported that manufacturing construction declined slightly, down from $55.80 billion at the annual rate in January to $55.50 billion in February. Still, the larger story was that manufacturers have put significantly more construction dollars in place today than 12 months ago, up from $48.12 billion in February 2013. As such, manufacturing construction has risen 17.3 percent year-over-year. Even more impressive is the fact that the sector has rebounded strongly after falling to $43.94 billion in June.
Overall construction activity increased only marginally in February, up 0.1 percent. Residential spending was lower (off 0.7 percent for the month), pulling down the headline figure. Meanwhile, private, nonresidential construction had decent increases in February, up 1.2 percent. The strongest gains were seen in the communications (up 6.4 percent), power (up 4.4 percent), lodging (up 3.5 percent), and transportation (up 1.6 percent) sectors. In addition to the slight decline in manufacturing for the month, other sectors with decreased spending in February included religious (down 6.9 percent), amusement and recreation (down 1.5 percent), educational (down 0.7 percent), commercial (down 0.6 percent), and office (down 0.2 percent) institutions.
On a year-over-year basis, private construction has grown a whopping 13.0 percent, with residential and nonresidential activity up 13.5 percent and 12.5 percent, respectively. Beyond the manufacturing data discussed above, other bright spots over the past 12 months were in the communications (up 51.5 percent), lodging (up 40.0 percent), amusement and recreation (up 20.3 percent), office (up 19.0 percent), and transportation (up 10.0 percent) sectors.
At the same time, public, nonresidential construction spending was unchanged for the month, with 12.2 percent declines over the past year. The February data were mostly mixed. Public spending dollars were higher for commercial (up 8.4 percent), conservation and development (up 6.3 percent), power (up 6.1 percent), amusement and recreation (up 4.4 percent), and office (up 2.2 percent) projects. But, these were essentially offset by declines in water supply (down 8.9 percent), public safety (down 6.8 percent), transportation (down 2.3 percent), sewage and water disposal (down 1.8 percent), and educational (down 1.2 percent) projects.
Chad Moutray is the chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.