WASHINGTON - Construction spending fell 0.6% to a seasonally adjusted estimated annual rate of $837.1 billion in August, the sharpest decline since a 3% plummet in July 2011, the Commerce Department reported Monday.

The August rate dipped from a revised July estimate of $842 billion, originally reported as $834.4  billion, but was 6.5% above the August 2011 estimate of $786.3 billion.

The increase in the annual rate contrasted with the median 0.5% rise projected by economists polled by Thomson Reuters.

Total construction spending during the first eight months of the year was $545.2 billion, 9% above the $500.1 billion spending level through the same period last year.

Spending on private construction dipped 0.5% to a seasonally adjusted estimated rate of $562.2 billion in August, from $564.8 billion in July. Private residential construction rose 0.9% to a $273.5 billion pace, the highest since a $274.6 rate in January 2009.

That rise was offset by the 1.7% decline of nonresidential construction to a $288.7 billion rate, the lowest since a $285.2 billion rate in December 2011.

Public construction spending fell 0.8% to a $274.9 billion annual rate, from the revised July rate of $277.2 billion. State and local construction spending was down 0.9% to $249.7 billion, while federal construction spending rose 0.3% to $25.2 billion.

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