Monday, December 01, 2008

Construction Spending Declines in October

by Bill McBride on 12/01/2008 10:00:00 AM

The Census Bureau reported this morning that private non-residential construction decreased in October with declines in both residential and non-residential spending. I expect that non-residential investment will decline sharply over the next year or two.

From the Census Bureau: September 2008 Construction at $1,060.1 Billion Annual Rate

Spending on private construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $756.5 billion, 2.0 percent (±1.1%) below the revised September estimate of $771.9 billion. Residential construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $338.8 billion in October, 3.5 percent (±1.3%) below the revised September estimate of $351.2 billion. Nonresidential construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $417.7 billion in October, 0.7 percent (±1.1%)* below the revised September estimate of $420.6 billion.
Construction Spending Click on graph for larger image in new window.

The graph shows private residential and nonresidential construction spending since 1993.

Nonresidential spending had been strong as builders completed projects, but there is substantial evidence of a slowdown - less lending for new projects, less work for architects - and it appears the expected slowdown in non-residential spending has arrived. On the graph nonresidential spending has been relatively flat for the last few months, but I expect some serious cliff diving over the next 18 months.

Construction Spending
The second graph shows the year-over-year change for private residential and non-residential construction spending.

The YoY change in non-residential spending is starting to slow down and will probably turn negative later this year or early in 2009.

It now looks like investment in non-residential structures will negatively impact GDP in Q4. This had been one of the few bright spots for the economy.