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US construction spending approaches 4-1/2 year high

Tyvek attic wrap from DuPont
Source: DuPont
Tyvek attic wrap from DuPont

U.S. construction spending hit a near 4-1/2 year high in August, boosted by increases in both private and public outlays, a hopeful sign for third-quarter economic growth.

Construction spending increased 0.6 percent to an annual rate of $915.1 billion, the highest level since April 2009, the Commerce Department said on Tuesday.

Construction spending in July was revised to show a 1.4 percent rise instead of the previously reported 0.6 percent gain.

(Read more: Boom times: High-end house flips soar)

The report was originally scheduled for release on Oct. 1 but was delayed after the federal government was partially shut down because of a fight over the budget. The 16-day shutdown ended last Wednesday.

Construction spending in August was lifted by a 0.4 percent rise in public construction projects. That was the fourth consecutive month of gains and came even as federal government spending on construction projects tumbled.

There was also a boost from spending on private construction projects, which increased 0.7 percent to its highest level since January 2009.

Private residential construction spending jumped 1.2 percent to a five-year high, showing little sign that high interest rates were slowing activity. Part of the increase in residential construction spending reflected home improvement projects.

An earlier report showed payrolls in the construction industry increased 20,000 in September. Construction employment had barely increased over the prior two months, and the gain in September could ease fears of a leveling off in home building.

(Read more: September swoon: Job creation misses expectations )

By Reuters

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  • Diana Olick serves as CNBC's real estate correspondent as well as the editor of the Realty Check section on CNBC.com.