National nonresidential construction spending expanded 0.7 percent in August to its highest level since the U.S. Census Bureau began the data series in 2002, according to an ABC analysis. Total nonresidential spending stood at $762.7 billion on a seasonally adjusted, annualized rate in August, which represents an increase of 8.4 percent compared to one year ago. Private nonresidential spending fell 0.2 percent in August largely due to a 1.3 percent decline in power-related spending, the largest private construction spending category, and public nonresidential spending increased 2 percent.
“The good news on the nation’s economy and the construction sector just keeps coming,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “The increase in overall nonresidential construction spending was reasonably predictable given the predominance of positive leading indicators such as ABC’s Construction Backlog Indicator, which reported record-setting 9.9 months of backlog in the second quarter of this year, and the Architectural Billings Index. In addition, the recent pattern of stable private construction spending coupled with growing public spending remained in place in August.
“Rising property values, ongoing rapid job creation and a confident consumer translates into rising real estate values, income and retail sales tax collections, which in turn creates additional resources to invest in infrastructure,” said Basu. “That helps explain the chunky year-over-year spending increases in a number of primarily publicly financed categories, including water supply, which increased 37 percent; conservation and development, 34 percent; transportation, 23 percent; and highway/street, 14 percent.
“It is quite possible that construction spending growth will accelerate from current levels,” said Basu. “Aside from the strong economy, ongoing increases in materials prices and worker compensation is translating into rising project delivery costs, which, all things being equal, produces faster construction spending growth.
“For now, rising construction and borrowing costs are not stifling economic activity,” said Basu. “However, purchasers of construction services may be increasingly inclined to postpone projects if costs continue to rise, which is likely. And while contractors remain concerned about the overall construction workforce shortage negatively affecting project deadlines, the near-term outlook remains robust.”