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March 1, 2021 11:45 AM, EST

Manufacturing Activity Jumps to Three-Year High in February

Construction Spending Rises
Ford assembly line Machines work on an assembly line at Ford's Chicago Assembly Plant in 2019. (Amr Alfiky/AP)

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WASHINGTON — U.S. manufacturing expanded in February at the fastest pace in three years with the arrival of a surge in new orders.

The Institute for Supply Management reported March 1 that its gauge of manufacturing activity rose to a reading of 60.8% last month, 2.1 percentage-points above the January level of 58.7%.

It was the strongest performance since February 2018. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion in the manufacturing sector.

The survey found optimism increasing with five positive comments for every cautious comment, up from a 3-to-1 ratio in the January survey.

Spending on Construction Projects Rises 1.7% in January

SILVER SPRING, Md. — Spending on U.S. construction projects rose 1.7% in January as new home building continues to lift the sector.

Last month’s increase followed small revised gains in December and November.

Spending on residential construction rose 2.5% in January, with single family home projects up 3%, the Commerce Department reported March 1.

Despite an economy that’s been battered for nearly a year because of the coronavirus pandemic, historically low interest rates and city dwellers seeking more space in the suburbs and beyond has boosted home sales. Last week, the Commerce Department reported that sales of new homes jumped 4.3% in January, and are 19.3% higher than they were last year at this time.

In a separate report, the government reported that applications for building permits, which typically signal activity ahead, spiked 10.4% in January.

Spending on government projects, which has been constrained by tight state and local budgets in the wake of the pandemic, rose 1.7%.

Nonresidential construction was up 0.4% after months of declines, but is still down 10% from January of last year. The category that accounts for hotels also ticked up 0.7% but is still down a whopping 22.7% from the same time last year as the travel and leisure sector has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic.

Total spending on construction in January was $1.52 billion, 5.8% higher than January 2020.

Matt Ott wrote the construction report.

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