The U.S. Commerce Department reports that spending on new construction dipped 0.2 percent in February, pulled down by a sharp drop in government outlays for big public works projects. The February figure marked the first monthly drop since August 2002.

Even so, February’s performance was better than analysts were expecting and suggested the residential construction and housing markets continue to represent one of the struggling economy’s few bright spots.

Despite the month-over-month decline, construction spending continues at a brisk pace. The Commerce Department said the value of all construction projects in February came in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $872.2 billion. The modest drop in February came after construction spending rose by a solid 2 percent in January.

The pace of residential construction hit a record high of $454.4 billion. Non-residential construction spending rose to $158.8 billion. It was the second monthly increase in a row for non-residential construction with gains in construction of stores and similar commercial buildings and hospitals.