Construction spending in May was unchanged from April but increased from a year ago amid growing reports that contractors are struggling to find enough skilled workers to keep projects on schedule, according to an analysis of new government data by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials said a mixture of worker shortages and political gridlock appears to be holding back construction sector growth.
Construction spending in May totaled $1.230 trillion at a seasonally adjusted annual rate, unchanged from the upwardly revised April total. He added that the year-to-date increase of 6.1 percent for January through May 2017, compared with the same months of 2016, shows overall demand for construction remains positive but that the recent flattening of investment coincides with more frequent reports that contractors and home builders are stretching out completion times because they cannot find enough qualified workers.
Private nonresidential spending slipped 0.7 percent for the month but grew 5.3 percent year-to-date. The largest private nonresidential segment in May was power construction (including oil and gas field and pipeline projects), which edged up 0.3 percent for the month and 3.4 percent year-to-date. The next-largest segment, commercial (retail, warehouse and farm) construction, decreased 1.0 percent in May but climbed 15.2 percent year-to-date. Manufacturing construction declined 1.7 percent for the month and 7.8 percent year-to-date. Private office construction increased by 0.8 percent for the month and 16.9 percent year-to-date.
Private residential construction spending slipped by 0.6 percent between April and May 2017 but gained 12.4 percent year-to-date. Spending on multifamily residential construction dropped 3.3 percent for the month and was up 6.2 percent year-to-date, while single-family inched down 0.3 percent from April to May and was up 7.3 percent year-to-date.
Public construction spending grew 2.1 percent from the prior month but declined by 3.5 percent for the first five months of 2017 combined. The biggest public segment—highway and street construction—dipped 0.9 percent for the month and 1.3 percent year-to-date. Among other major public infrastructure categories, spending on transportation facilities such as transit and airport construction inched down 0.2 percent year-to-date; spending on sewage and waste disposal plummeted 21.5 percent; and spending on water supply fell 11.0 percent.