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The Boston Globe

Business

US construction spending down 1.7 percent in March

For March, private residential construction rose 0.4 percent, the only major sector showing a gain.

Chuck Burton/Associated Press

For March, private residential construction rose 0.4 percent, the only major sector showing a gain.

WASHINGTON — Spending on US construction projects fell in March as the biggest drop in government projects in more than a decade overwhelmed strength in home building.

Construction spending fell 1.7 percent in March, compared with February, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. It marked the second decline in the past three months. January activity plunged a record 4 percent, a downward revision from a previous estimate of a 2.1 percent decline.

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Even with the recent weakness, construction activity was 4.8 percent higher in March than a year ago at a seasonally adjusted $856.7 billion.

For March, private residential construction rose 0.4 percent, the only major sector showing a gain. Government construction activity fell 4.1 percent, the biggest drop since March 2002, while private nonresidential building was down 1.5 percent.

Spending by state and local governments was down 4.2 percent while spending by the federal government on construction projects was down 1.7 percent.

The rise in residential construction continued a trend that began last year and showed that the housing recovery is being sustained by rising demand.

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