The Census Bureau reported the value of construction put in place in December reached $1.032 trillion at a seasonally adjusted annual rate. That was a 1.1% gain over November's upwardly revised total. It marked the 11th straight increase and brought the annual total for 2004 to $998 billion, 9% more than in 2003. For the year, private residential construction rose 14%, private nonresidential construction 4%, and public construction 3%. Residential, single-family gained 19%, multi-family 9%, and improvements 3%. Within private nonresidential, lodging was up 19%, health care 10%, retail (automotive, food/beverage, multi-retail, other commercial) 9%, office 6%, communication 5%, and manufacturing 2%. Electric power construction fell 11%, warehouse construction 6%, and private educational 3%.

A subtle harbinger of construction industry strength is that repossessions of construction equipment dropped by 53% during the four quarters of 2004, according to Nassau Asset Management's NasTrac Quarterly Index. Nassau's findings correlate with CIT Equipment Finance's 2005 Construction Industry Forecast that found contractors plan to double their spending on new equipment this year, and 54% of equipment distributors expect to sell more this year than they did in 2004.