Construction spending at lowest point since 2002

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Builders cut back on new projects at a faster-than-expected pace in February and drove down construction spending to the lowest level in eight years. It was a fresh sign that the troubled real-estate market remains a sore spot for the economic recovery.

The Commerce Department reported Thursday that spending on construction projects around the country fell by 1.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $846.23 billion. That was the lowest level since November 2002.

Economists were predicting builders would pare spending by 1 percent.

The weakness was widespread. Spending fell for home building, commercial ventures, including hotels and motels, and big government public works projects, such as highways and streets.

The 1.3 percent drop, followed a deeper 1.4 percent decline in January. It was the fourth month in a row that construction spending fell.

The housing market led the country into a recession and despite some improvements at the end of last year, the sector this year is showing fresh signs of weakness. Commercial real estate has been a drag on overall economic activity. Soured commercial real estate loans are a problem for banks, which remain wary of boosting lending to consumers and businesses.

Thursday's report suggested that the real-estate market will continue to be a problem spot for the economy, which is recovering from the worst recession since the 1930s.

Total spending on construction projects is down 12.8 percent from a year ago, underscoring the deep hole builders are struggling to come out of.

(Copyright ©2014 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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