WASHINGTON - Construction spending climbed 0.9% to a seasonally adjusted estimated annual rate of $830.0 billion in May, the Commerce Department reported Monday.

The May rate rose from the revised April estimate of $822.5 billion, originally reported as $820.7 billion. The May figure was 7.0% above the May 2011 estimate of $775.8 billion, and was the largest since it was $832.6 billion in December 2009.

The spending growth outstripped the expectations of economists polled by Thomson Reuters, who had predicted a median 0.2% increase in the rate from April to May.

Total construction spending through the first five months of 2012 was $310.5 billion, the Commerce Department said, 9.4% above the $283.8 billion spent through the first five months of 2011.

Spending on private construction was at a seasonally adjusted estimated rate of $560.4 billion in May, a 1.6% gain from the April estimate of $551.8 billion and the largest figure since a $561.5 billion pace in October 2009.

Residential construction was at a $261.3 billion rate in May, 3.0% above the $253.8 billion rate for April. Nonresidential construction was at a $299.1 billion rate, 0.4% above the April estimate of $298.0 billion.

Public construction spending was $269.6 billion, a 0.4% drop below the April estimate of $270.7 billion. Federal construction spending grew 5.6% to an annual rate of $27.0 billion, but that was not enough to offset a 1.0% fall in state and local spending to a $242.6 billion pace.

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