The U.S. Commerce Department reported that the value of buildings put in place jumped by 1.5 percent in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $944.1 billion, the highest level on record. That figure is three times larger than the 0.5 percent increase some analysts had predicted.

In the construction report, the 1.5 percent increase for March came after a modest 0.4 percent rise in February, according to revised figures. That was better than the 0.1 percent dip previously reported for February. January's figure also was revised to show a 0.4 percent drop in spending, not as deep as the 0.8 percent decline previously estimated.

The 1.5 percent increase in construction spending in March marked the largest monthly gain since a 1.6 percent advance posted in July 2003.