The Census Bureau reported that manufacturing construction declined 1.1 percent at the annual rate, down from $50.66 billion in March to $50.10 billion in April. The longer-term trend has been mixed. In the early months of 2014, total private construction activity in the sector has been stagnant, down from $51.07 billion in December. Still, manufacturers have put significantly more construction dollars in place today than 12 months ago, up from $46.68 billion in April 2013. As such, manufacturing construction has risen 7.3 percent year-over-year.
Total construction spending increased 0.2 percent in April, extending the 0.4 percent and 0.6 percent gains seen in February and March, respectively. The increase mostly stemmed from higher public sector construction spending (up 0.8 percent). The largest public sector construction gains were for commercial (up 14.7 percent), sewage and waste disposal (up 4.7 percent), transportation (up 3.6 percent), and conservation and development (up 2.6 percent) projects.
Yet, private sector spending data were weak, unchanged from March. A slight increase in residential spending (up 0.1 percent) was offset by nonresidential activity (down 0.1 percent). Nonetheless, private construction has risen a healthy 11.7 percent year-over-year, lifted by a 17.2 percent jump in housing spending. Moreover, private, nonresidential construction has grown 5.6 percent over the past year, which has also been a decent figure.
In terms of private, nonresidential construction spending for April, the declines were primarily in the communications (down 11.7 percent), manufacturing (down 1.1 percent), and power (down 0.6 percent) sectors. Other major segments were higher for the month, with the biggest increases seen in amusement and recreation (up 9.8 percent), office (up 3.1 percent), transportation (up 2.8 percent), religious (up 1.9 percent), and lodging (up 1.8 percent). Since April 2013, the fastest growth in nonresidential spending has occurred in the office (up 25.6 percent), communication (up 21.4 percent), and lodging (up 17.2 percent) sectors.
Chad Moutray is the chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.