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First Cut: Dollar value of construction up in March before widespread closures associated with the pandemic

The dollar value of new construction put in place was up 0.8% in March after down 2.5% in February. The increase was a surprise but perhaps should not have been. Consumers may have taken the opportunity to start home improvement projects in March while they had to be there anyway. A lot of projects were already under way in the first part of the month before government restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 went into effect.

Overall private construction was up 0.7%, while private residential construction was up 2.3%. Single-family home construction values fell 2.0% as some contracts were cancelled as consumers and builders were worried about the viability of sales. However, large multi-family products were up 2.0%, probably due already committed funds. Moreover, home improvement was up 10.2% as consumers focused on their surroundings during a period of limited movements in the outside world.

Private nonresidential construction was down, perhaps reflecting delays in previously planned building while the economic outlook was uncertain.

Public construction was up 1.6%, again likely due to funds already allocated that were in the process of being spent before restrictions related to controlling the spread of COVID-19 were announced.

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