Spending for nonresidential construction, which had been on the uptick for most of 2015, stumbled in the latter months.
The Census Bureau revised downward its spending estimates for September and October, and reported that spending in November stood at a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of $688.1 billion, down 0.8% from the lower October figure.
Even though it was still up from November 2014's annualized rate of around $625 billion, November 2015 was the industry's worst-performing month since April 2015.
Anirban Basu, chief economist for Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), called Census's latest data “ominous,” because it showed that spending momentum “has softened considerably in recent months.” He added that ABC's surveys of construction executives paint a more dire picture of the industry's state.
“The most recent data suggest that while 2016 may be a year of nonresidential construction spending growth, it may not provide the degree of momentum that characterized much of 2015,” Basu said. He pointed specifically to construction related to the manufacturing sector, which in November was off 28.8% from November 2014. He believes this downturn reflects falling exports and stiffer competition from foreign producers.
ABC's analysis of Census's data found that only four of 16 construction subsectors showed positive gains in November: Communication, which was up 4.4% over October and 27.8% over November 2014; Education (up 3.9% and 13.8%), Office (1.6% and 20.5%), and Transportation (0.2% and 3.1%).
Conversely, spending for Public Safety projects fell 8.1% on a monthly basis, and 5.2% year over year. Even Healthcare, which had been the industry's shining light recently (it was up 5% from November 2014), slipped by 0.1% from October 2015.