Heavy Engineering Construction Ends the Year on a Sour Note

02/26/2013 by Bernard M. Markstein

Heavy engineering (non-building) construction spending sank 0.5% on a seasonally adjusted (SA) basis in December after advancing 1.1% in November. For the year, heavy engineering spending was up 7.4% from 2011 in spite of limitations in public funding.

Construction spending for power increased for the fourth month in a row, up 1.4% in December. November power spending was revised up $2.2 billion, moving the month from a decrease of 0.7% to an increase of 1.5%. For the year, the three largest categories were up over their 2011 numbers. From largest to smallest based on dollar amount of construction spending they were power (+24.9%), highway (+0.7%), and transportation (+7.9%). Water and sewer construction spending, which was almost as much as that for transportation, was down 4.2% for the year.

U.S. Heavy Engineering (Non-Building) Construction
(billions of U.S. current dollars)

  Monthly Figures (1)
(latest actual values)
3-Month Moving Average Year-to-Date (NSA)
  Oct-12 Nov-12 Dec-12 Oct-12 Nov-12 Dec-12 Jan-11 to
Dec-11
Jan-12 to
Dec-12
Transportation 41.5 41.3 40.6 39.7 40.7 41.1 34.9 37.6
  Month-over-Month
  % Change
6.2% -0.5% -1.9% 3.2% 2.5% 1.2%    
  Year-over-year
  % Change (NSA)
23.1% 21.6% 12.2%       -9.1% 7.9%
Communication 16.6 17.2 17.0 17.1 17.2 16.9 17.5 17.1
  -7.0% 3.4% -1.0% -1.4% 0.9% -1.7%    
  3.8% 4.3% -8.2%       -1.1% -2.5%
Power 91.2 92.6 93.8 90.4 91.4 92.5 74.0 92.4
  0.7% 1.5% 1.4% -0.3% 1.2% 1.2%    
  12.9% 11.5% 8.1%       -5.1% 24.9%
Highway 77.6 78.2 78.7 78.6 78.0 78.1 78.9 79.5
  -1.0% 0.8% 0.7% -1.4% -0.7% 0.2%    
  -1.3% -7.0% -5.6%       -4.4% 0.7%
Water and Sewer 34.6 35.9 33.5 34.7 35.2 34.7 36.8 35.2
  -1.5% 3.7% -6.4% 1.0% 1.5% -1.5%    
  -6.5% -2.9% -9.6%       -11.0% -4.2%
Conservation & Development 6.3 5.6 5.8 6.4 6.1 5.9 7.4 6.1
  -3.9% -11.6% 3.6% 2.4% -3.8% -4.3%    
  -12.5% -16.3% -11.7%       2.8% -17.3%
Total (2) 267.8 270.7 269.4 266.7 268.6 269.3 249.4 267.9
  0.1% 1.1% -0.5% 0.0% 0.7% 0.2%    
  5.3% 3.7% 0.9%       -5.9% 7.4%

(1) Monthly figures are seasonally adjusted at annual rates (SAAR figures).
(2) Total may not equal the sum of its components due to rounding.
Source: Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Commerce. Calculations: Reed Construction Data

Public funding for new heavy engineering construction projects will continue to be a challenge over the next few years despite the president’s support for investment in infrastructure. The result will be more emphasis on public-private partnerships for funding most new projects. However, the private sector will invest in heavy construction projects on its own for projects in areas such as power and communication. Heavy engineering construction spending is forecasted to increase 3.2% this year and to increase 6.7% in 2014.

U.S. Heavy Engineering (Non-Building) Construction
(billions of U.S. current dollars)

  Actual Forecast
  2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Transportation 36.7 38.3 34.9 37.6 42.8 46.7
   Year-over-year % Change 3.5% 4.5% -9.1% 7.9% 13.7% 9.2%
Communication 19.8 17.7 17.5 17.1 17.9 19.1
-25.4% -10.2% -1.1% -2.5% 4.6% 6.9%
Power 88.9 77.9 74.0 92.4 95.7 103.3
  9.6% -12.3% -5.1% 24.9% 3.5% 8.0%
Highway 82.2 82.5 78.9 79.5 80.4 84.2
1.0% 0.4% -4.4% 0.7% 1.2% 4.7%
Water and Sewer 40.3 41.3 36.8 35.2 33.9 35.5
  -5.1% 2.5% -11.0% -4.2% -3.9% 4.8%
Conservation & Development 5.8 7.2 7.4 6.1 6.0 6.2
9.9% 24.7% 2.8% -17.3% -2.3% 4.8%
Total (1) 273.5 265.0 249.4 267.9 276.6 295.1
0.5% -3.1% -5.9% 7.4% 3.2% 6.7%

(1) Total may not equal the sum of its components due to rounding.
Source: Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Commerce. Forecast: Reed Construction Data.

Read more forecasts from Reed Construction Data:

Construction Spending Ends 2012 on a High Note
Nonresidential Building Construction Spending Increases at the End of 2012
Continued Recovery in Housing Sends New Residential Construction Spending Higher in December