That’s according to an analysis by Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), which pointed out the number would have been even higher if it weren’t for a shortage of construction workers.
“Overall, demand for construction continues to grow at a very robust rate,” said AGC Chief Economist Ken Simonson. “It appears, however, that many firms performing private nonresidential work could not find enough qualified workers in September to keep pace with growing demand.”
There were only 479,000 unemployed construction workers in September, the smallest total for that month in 15 years, Simonson noted.
Construction spending has increased every month this year, and the latest gain suggested the economy remained on firmer ground despite some slowing in consumer spending and persistent weakness in manufacturing.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast construction spending rising 0.5 percent in September. Construction outlays were up 14.1 percent compared to September of last year.
September’s increase is slightly above the gain the government had estimated in its advance third-quarter gross domestic product estimate published last week.
A recent AGC survey found that 86 percent of construction firms say they’re having a hard time finding qualified workers to fill vacant positions.
Both private sector and public sector construction spending continued to grow, with outlays in the larger private sector 16.0 percent above a year ago, and public construction spending 9.4 percent higher.
The fresh data suggested that the housing sector specifically remains healthy despite some recent data suggesting a slowdown.
Private spending on housing construction, the largest component of all construction spending, picked up 1.8 percent in the month and gained 17.2 percent year on year.
Eventually that could turn into higher supplies of new homes, to ease the current tight market that has pushed prices high enough to deter buyers, according to industry specialists.