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U.S. construction spending down 1.7 percent

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WASHINGTON — Spending on U.S. construction projects fell in March as the biggest drop in government projects in more than a decade overwhelmed strength in home building.

The Commerce Department says construction spending fell 1.7 percent in March, compared with February. It marked the second decline in the past three months. January activity plunged a record 4 percent, which represented a downward revision from a previous estimate of a 2.1 percent decline.

Even with the recent weakness, construction activity was 4.8 percent higher in March than a year ago at a seasonally adjusted $856.7 billion.

For March, private residential construction rose 0.4 percent, the only major sector showing a gain. Government construction activity fell 4.1 percent, the biggest drop since March 2002, while private nonresidential building was down 1.5 percent.