March 2, 2020 3:15 PM, EST

US Construction Spending Up 1.8% in January to Record Level

Construction workerConstruction workers in Boston's Seaport district in November. (Steven Senne/Associated Press)

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WASHINGTON — Spending on U.S. construction projects rose to an all-time high in January, helped by strong gains for home construction and government building projects.

The Commerce Department said March 2 that construction spending increased 1.8% in January, the strongest monthly rise in nearly two years, pushing total spending to a record seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1.37 trillion.

Spending on home construction jumped 2.1%, the strongest gain since August. The strength came from single-family home construction, which rose 2.7% while apartment building was unchanged.

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Home building has been seeing strong gains since the summer as falling mortgage rates have helped to spur a rebound after more than a year of lagging activity. After six quarters of declining activity in housing, residential construction has grown at solid rates for the past two quarters with economists expecting that growth to continue this year.

Nonresidential construction was up 0.8% in January with spending in the category that includes shopping centers and religious centers showing some of the biggest gains.

Spending on government building projects increased 2.6% with spending by state and local governments rising 2% to an all-time high while spending by the federal government was up 9.9% to the highest level since May 2012.

The overall economy grew at a moderate 2.1% annual rate in the final three months of last year, but analysts are concerned that the spreading coronavirus will depress U.S. growth in the first part of this year.

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