The spending rate for residential construction projects dropped for the 24th consecutive month in February and has fallen 34.4 percent from its peak of $696 million in February 2006, the U.S. Census Bureau announced today.

Private construction spending fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $456.9 billion in February, down about 18.8 percent compared to February 2007 and down 0.9 percent compared to January 2008. This rate is a projection of a monthly construction spending total over a 12-month period, adjusted to account for seasonal fluctuations in spending. The residential spending rate in February was the lowest since May 2003, when it stood at $456.5 billion.

Total construction spending, including public and private residential and nonresidential construction spending, dropped to a rate of $1.12 trillion in February, which is down about 3.5 percent from February 2007 and down 0.3 percent compared to January 2008.

For the first two months of this year, construction spending totaled $155.1 billion, or about 2.6 percent below spending during the same period in 2007.

Total private construction spending dipped to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $826.6 billion in February, down about 7.1 percent compared to February 2007 and down about 0.5 percent compared to January 2008.

Total public construction spending rose to a rate of $294.9 billion in February, up 8.2 percent compared to February 2007 and up 0.4 percent compared to January 2008.

Month-to-month changes in seasonally adjusted statistics often show irregular movements, the Census Bureau noted, and it can take two months to establish an underlying trend for total construction and up to eight months for specific categories of construction. Statistics are estimated from several sources and surveys and are subject to sampling variability and nonsampling error, including bias and variance from response, nonreporting, and undercoverage, the agency reported.

February 2008 statistics are preliminary estimates that are subject to revision in following months.

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