Construction spending ticked up in April, gaining 0.3% from March’s upwardly revised estimate to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $820.7 billion, according to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau today. The monthly figure was up 6.8% year-over-year. The report was boosted, however, by gains in residential improvements, a poorly estimated category; once that figure is excluded, total spending declined 0.2% for the month.

The report was a good one for the housing sector; private spending on residential constructions projects improved 2.8% on a monthly basis. Multifamily spending had a strong showing with a 4.1% monthly gain; private single-family spending was up 1.8%.

Spending in other sectors wasn’t as encouraging. Private nonresidential spending was down 0.7% from March, and public project spending declined 1.4%, bringing it back to a level last seen in December 2006. The category likely faces dark days ahead, says Patrick Newport, U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight. "Given the budgetary problems confronting state and local governments, real spending on infrastructure is likely to decline in both 2012 and 2013," he wrote in a release today.

Spending for the first four months of this year stood 7.3% higher than the same period in 2011. However, the first quarter’s numbers were lifted by unseasonably good weather, Newport points out. "April’s lackluster numbers could be payback."

See the Census Bureau’s full April 2012 construction spending report.

Claire Easley is a senior editor at Builder.

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