Construction spending fell 1.7% for March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $856.7 billion, according to a Commerce Department report (link opens in PDF) released today.

After heading up a revised 1.5% in February, analysts had expected a 0.6% gain for March.

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Source: census.gov. 

Both private- and public-sector construction contracted in March, but public's pullback packed the most punch. Private construction spending fell 0.6% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $598.4 billion, while public plummeted 4.1% to $269.2 billion.

Public office building dropped 10.8% to $7.98 billion, while a 5.2% drop in road construction pushed spending down there to $73.78 billion.

Looking back across the past 12 months, things look slightly more promising. Overall construction is up 4.8%, while private construction pushed ahead with a 9.8% gain that more than offset public's 5.4% slump. For Q1 2013, construction spending is up 4.7% compared to 2012's first quarter.

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