U.S. construction spending flat in January

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) - U.S. construction spending was unexpectedly flat in January as a surge in investment in public construction projects was offset by a decline in private outlays.

The Commerce Department said on Thursday the virtually unchanged reading in construction spending followed an upwardly revised 0.8 percent jump in December.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast construction spending increasing 0.3 percent in January after a previously reported 0.7 percent advance in December. Construction spending increased 3.2 percent on a year-on-year basis.

In January, spending on private construction projects fell 0.5 percent after increasing 0.6 percent in December. Outlays on private residential projects rose 0.3 percent after dropping 0.5 percent in December.

Spending on nonresidential structures tumbled 1.5 percent in January, almost reversing December’s 1.8 percent jump.

Outlays on public construction projects increased 1.8 percent in January to the highest level since August 2015, after rising by the same margin in December.

Spending on federal government construction projects vaulted 14.9 percent to the highest level since September 2011. State and local government construction outlays rose 0.5 percent to levels last seen in March 2016.

Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci