WASHINGTON - Construction spending fell 0.9% to a seasonally adjusted estimated annual rate of $834.4 billion in July, the largest decrease in a year, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday.

The July rate dipped from a revised June estimate of $842.2 billion, originally reported as $842.1 billion, a 0.4% increase , but was 9.3% above the July 2011 estimate of $763.5 billion.

The decrease in the annual rate was contrary to the median 0.4% rise projected by economists polled by Thomson Reuters, and was the largest since a 3.0% decline in July 2011.

Total construction spending during the first seven months of the year was $464.4 billion, 9.3% above the $425 billion for the same period last year.

Spending on private construction was down 1.2% to a seasonally adjusted estimated rate of $558.7 billion in July, from $565.6 billion in June. A decrease in private residential construction drove that decline, as that dropped 1.6% to a $264.6 billion rate in July, compared to a revised rate of $268.9 billion for June.

Private nonresidential construction dipped 0.9% to a $294.1 billion annual rate, from the revised June level of $296.7 billion, originally reported as $302.3 billion, the Commerce Department reported.

Public construction spending fell 0.4% to a $275.7 billion annual rate, from the upwardly revised June rate of $276.7 billion, originally reported as $274.2 billion.

State and local construction spending was down 0.3% to $249.6 billion from a revised $250.2 billion in June, originally reported as $247.8 billion.

Federal construction spending fell 1.3% to $26.1 billion, after an unrevised annual rate of $26.4 billion in June.

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