Construction spending dipped a modest 0.6% from June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1.212 trillion in July, the Commerce Department reported Friday.
Private residential construction rose 0.8% in July to a rate of $517.5 billion, while private nonresidential construction fell 1.9% to a rate of $428 billion for the period. Within residential, single-family rose 0.8%, while multifamily decreased 0.8%. Public construction slid 1.4% during the period.
July's construction spending figure is still 1.8% ahead of the year-ago mark, and spending in the first seven months of 2017 is 4.7% higher than the same period last year.
The month's report falls in line with the up-and-down pattern of spending seen throughout 2017. After a strong start to the year with three straight months of growth in the category, analysts were optimistic about continued gains.
That growth pumped the brakes moving into the spring season, though spending could pick up in the second half of the year with construction starts on pace to surpass analyst expectations. Economists from Dodge Data & Analytics initially had projected total construction starts lifting 5% from last year to reach $712.9 billion in 2017. Steady positive demand for design services — in addition to a strong and stabilizing backlog — could put spending back on track.
Meanwhile, construction job growth is slowing down after four straight months of job gains. The industry added 28,000 jobs in August suggesting a leveling-off in hiring as businesses contend with the skilled labor shortage and continue to work with limited resources.
Spending could get a boost from President Donald Trump's long-touted infrastructure plans. But discussion of a formal proposal, which has yet to be delivered, could be sidelined until next year while Congress sorts out tax reform, healthcare and other legislative issues.
Meanwhile, details of the proposed program have come in a slow trickle from the administration. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced Wednesday that cities and states able to secure private investors for their infrastructure projects could take priority for federal funding. That's likely to leave cities and state clamoring for coveted government grants.
Ahead of a federal building proposal, a number of states and municipalities have gone on to pass their own infrastructure spending bills. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown this week signed a $5.3 billion measure to update the state's roads and bridges, while California and Indiana recently approved similar programs.