According to the U.S. Commerce Department, construction spending in 2004 rose 9 percent to $998.4 billion, the strongest increase since 1996, which had a 10.4 percent jump. Total private residential building rose by 14 percent to $542.7 billion, the biggest boost in a decade. Total private construction - which includes office buildings, hotels and other commercial entities - increased 10.9 percent. Private building projects were up slightly, 3.4 percent, to $233.5 billion for the year. In related news, sales of new single-family homes for 2004 were 1.183 million and set a new annual sales record for the fourth year in a row. It is an 8.9 percent increase from the 2003 record of 1.086 million homes.