U.S. Construction Spending Up 0.3 Percent in April

By Martin Crutsinger

WASHINGTON -- U.S. builders increased their spending on construction projects for a second month in April. A pickup in home construction and commercial projects offset a fifth consecutive decline in government spending.

Construction spending rose 0.3 percent in April, matching an upwardly revised 0.3 percent March gain, according to data released Friday by the Commerce Department.

The consecutive gains pushed spending to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $820.7 billion. That is 7.6 percent above a 12-year low hit in March 2011. Still, the level of spending is roughly half of what economists consider to be healthy.

Residential construction rose 2.8 percent in April, the best showing in six months, to an annual rate of $256.1 billion. Recent data shows that housing has stabilized after years of weakness following the collapse of the housing boom.

Sales of new homes rose 3.3 percent in April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 343,000 units, the second highest level in two years. But the sales rate is still just half of the level that economists consider a healthy sales market.