The Census Bureau said that overall construction spending fell 0.6 percent in June, with weaknesses in both the residential and nonresidential sectors. Despite a very healthy gain in residential activity of 17.6 percent over the past 12 months, it was 0.1 percent lower in June. This somewhat mirrors earlier findings on lower housing starts and permits — a decrease possibly influenced by higher mortgage rates. That report suggested that the decline in new residential construction activity was primarily in the multi-family units segment.
Meanwhile, the level of manufacturing construction projects decreased from $45.9 billion in May to $45.1 billion in June. This was off from $49.5 billion in December, suggesting a drop of 8.9 percent year-to-date. The December figure was a bit of an outlier, though, and the year-over-year decline was a more modest 1.9 percent. Either way, it is clear that there has been a pulling back in construction investment in the first half of 2013.
For the larger private, nonresidential sector, spending declined 0.9 percent for the month, with year-over-year growth of 1.4 percent. The largest monthly increases were in the power, communications, and transportation sectors. In contrast, religious, educational, amusement and recreation, and lodging entities reduced their construction spending in June.
In terms of public construction projects, there were decreases of 1.1 percent for the month, or 9.3 percent lower year-over-year. There was lower spending found in the conservation and development, water supply, sewage and waste disposal, and public safety. These were somewhat counteracted by increases in power, office, health care, and commercial developments, among others.
Chad Moutray is the chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.