Construction spending dips 0.8% in February amid bad weather

WASHINGTON — U.S. construction spending fell in February after several months of steady gains, likely because of unseasonably cold weather and winter storms in the south.

The Commerce Department said today that spending on building projects slipped 0.8% in February, after a 1.2% gain in January. The drop was driven by lower spending on apartments, hotels, hospitals and educational facilities.

Public construction spending also dropped sharply, declining by 1.7%. State and local government budgets have come under strain during the pandemic, as tax revenue has fallen amid widespread unemployment and lower business revenue.

Home building has been a bright spot for construction in the pandemic, as more people have sought larger living spaces to work from home and for children to attend school online. But residential construction shrank 0.2% last month, mostly because of bad weather. The drop was driven by a decline in apartment construction, while single-family home building rose slightly.

New home construction has been a big driver for developers since the pandemic. Construction spending on homes and apartments has soared more than 21% in the past year, driving all construction spending up 5.3% since the pandemic struck.