January's "value of construction put in place" jumped to a record seasonally adjusted annual rate of $878 billion, the Census Bureau reported (a href= "http://www.census.gov/const/www/c30index.html"> www.census.gov/const/www/c30index.html). That number was 1.7 percent higher than the upwardly revised figure for December of $863 billion (originally estimated at $858 billion) and 2.1 percent higher than in January 2002.

Private residential building construction (up 2.5 percent for the month and 12 percent over the year-ago month) and public construction (+1 percent for the month and 0.6 percent compared to January 2002) both set records.

Private nonresidential building construction slipped by 0.3 percent for the month and 15 percent relative to January 2002.

Another Commerce Dept. agency, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, estimated that fourth quarter 2002 real (inflation-adjusted) investment in private nonresidential structures was down for the fifth straight quarter, by 10 percent, compared to -21 percent in the third quarter.