The value of construction put in place for the 12 months to the end of March was up +6.0% compared to a year ago, at US$ 808 billion on a seasonally adjusted basis. However, the rise was only +0.1% compared to the 12 months to the end of February 2012.
Private construction was buoyant compared to a year ago, with a +11.5% rise. The strongest gains were in the manufacturing and power sectors, while a +6.5% rise in the US$ 251 billion residential market added more than US$ 15 billion to the country's construction output over the course of the year.
However, public construction was weak with a -3.2% year-on-year decline. The biggest percentage fall was in the relatively small public residential sector, while transportation and conservation & development also saw double digit declines. The largest component of public construction is the highway and street sector, and at US$ 77 billion, this was level with a year ago.
Commenting on the figures, economic forecasting company IHS Global Insight said, "The first quarter numbers were boosted by weather. This implies payback numbers in April and May."
Ken Simonson chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) said, "While it is great to see private sector activity coming back to life, it is unfortunate to see declining public sector demand dampen the industry's overall growth."