The value of construction put in place rose 0.7% in January to $1.047 trillion, following a 1.2% increase in December, the Census Bureau reported last week. The 2004 total was revised up to an even $1 trillion. The January total was the 12th straight record. Relative to December 2004 and January 2004, respectively, private nonresidential construction rose 1.2% and 10%, public construction moved up 0.8% and 8.5%, and private residential construction, the subsector most vulnerable to harsh weather, climbed 0.4% and 12%.

Turner Corp., one of the nation's leading general contractors, predicted that construction costs in the first quarter of 2005 would rise 1.62% over the fourth quarter 2004, and 9.35% over first quarter 2004 prices. "Material pricing is expected to be less volatile over the next quarter," said Karl Almstead, Turner's vice president responsible for its Cost Index. "However, the recent tsunami's impact on cement production in Indonesia creates concern over the availability, and therefore, price of cement."