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2019 Capital Spending Report: U.S. Capital Spending Patterns 2008-2017

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Data in this report are from the Census Bureau's Annual Capital Expenditures Survey (ACES), which collects information on expenditures for new and used structures and equipment by all U.S. nonfarm businesses. The Capital Spending Report series covers spending by North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) industry sector in a ten-year moving window ending with the most recent ACES reference year— 2017 in the current report. However, linked background tables provide comparable NAICS industry data beginning in 1999. Estimates for the most recent years in each report are subject to revision.

The report looks closely at investment shares over time to see which are growing (shrinking) and, in theory, where firms and capital markets perceive the greatest economic opportunity. Annual spending estimates are not adjusted for inflation. This may affect the utility of year-to-year or longer-term comparisons of spending levels, especially when inflation rates are volatile and vary across industry groups and asset categories. However, with some exceptions (e.g., declines in information technology equipment prices, which may have a negative effect on investment totals in industries that invest heavily in IT equipment), comparisons of shares of overall investment across industry groups are less affected by inflation.

The ACES collects industry detail only for companies with employees; hence, estimates in the present report series of capital spending by industry are for employer businesses. Over the 10-year period from 2008 to 2017, these businesses accounted for over ninety percent of total annual structures and equipment spending by U.S. nonfarm businesses.

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Summary Highlights of Total Capital Spending

Between 2008 and 2017, the period covered by this report, total spending by U.S. nonfarm businesses increased $308.7 million (22.5 percent) from $1,374.2 billion in 2008 to $1,682.9 billion in 2017.

  • Over the 10-year period from 2008 to 2017, the percentage of capital expenditures made up by structures decreased from 40.9 percent to 38.7 percent.
  • The percentage of capital expenditures made up by equipment investment increased from 59.1 percent in 2008 to 61.3 percent in 2017.

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Sector Highlights:

  • The mining sector’s share of capital expenditures decreased from 11.5 percent to 8.4 percent from 2008 to 2017.
  • The manufacturing sector’s share of capital expenditures decreased from 16.5 percent to 15.7 percent over the 10-year period.
  • The finance and insurance sector’s share of capital expenditures increased from 10.3 percent to 10.6 percent from 2008 to 2017.
  • The information sector’s share of capital expenditures increased from 8.0 percent to 10.0 percent over the 10-year period.

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General Highlights

  • In 2008, capital spending by all U.S. nonfarm businesses totaled $1,374.2 billion. Capital investments decreased 20.6 percent in 2009. There was no significant change in spending in 2010, however, capital investments increased for the next five years, 12.4 percent in 2011, 14.5 percent in 2012, 4.8 percent in 2013, 7.1 percent in 2014, and 2.8 percent in 2015. In 2016, capital spending decreased 4.1 percent, but then increased 6.9 percent in 2017.  At the end of the 10-year period from 2008 to 2017, capital spending had reached a high of $1,682.9 billion.
  • In 2008, expenditures for structures totaled $562.4 billion. Of this amount, $523.0 billion (93.0 percent) was spending for new structures. However, spending began a two-year decline in 2009, dropping 20.1 percent the first year and another 4.4 percent in 2010. Spending increased in 2011 by 9.8 percent and in 2012 by 20.9 percent. Spending showed no significant change in 2013 but then increased 10.6 percent in 2014. Spending for structures showed no significant change in 2015. Capital investment in structures decreased 6.7 percent in 2016 but then increased 11.1 percent in 2017. At the end of the 10-year period from 2008 to 2017, capital spending for structures totaled $666.4 billion, an increase of $104.0 billion (18.5 percent) from 2008 spending.
  • In 2008, equipment expenditures totaled $811.8 billion. Of this amount, $765.3 billion (94.3 percent) was spending for new equipment. Spending for equipment decreased 21.0 percent in 2009, however, spending then increased for the next six years, 5.5 percent in 2010, 14.1 percent in 2011, 10.6 percent in 2012, 6.6 percent in 2013, 4.9 percent in 2014, and 4.7 percent in 2015. Capital investment in equipment decreased 2.4 percent in 2016 but then increased 4.2 percent in 2017. At the end of the 10-year period from 2008 to 2017, equipment expenditures totaled $1,016.5 billion, an increase of $204.7 billion (25.2 percent) from 2008 spending.

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*These data are subject to sampling/non-sampling error.

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Summary Highlights for Companies with Employees

  • Sectors showing the largest absolute increases in their capital investments from 2008 to 2017 included utilities (up $35.0 billion or 35.5 percent), manufacturing (up $35.2 billion or 16.5 percent), wholesale trade (up $11.0 billion or 34.0 percent), retail trade (up $18.6 billion or 25.4 percent), transportation and warehousing (up $30.5 billion or 38.4 percent), information (up $55.3 billion or 53.5 percent), finance and insurance (up $34.6 billion or 26.0 percent), real estate and rental and leasing (up $51.4 billion or 48.1 percent), and health care and social assistance (up $14.6 billion or 16.2 percent).
  • The mining sector showed the largest absolute decrease in capital investments over the 10-year period (down $16.7 billion or 11.2 percent). In 2008, capital spending totaled $149.3 billion. In 2009, capital spending decreased 32.6 percent to $100.6 billion. Spending then increased for the next three years, 15.1 percent in 2010, 43.1 percent in 2011, and 18.7 percent in 2012. Spending showed no significant change in 2013 but then increased 14.1 percent in 2014. However, spending began a two-year decline in 2015, dropping 24.6 percent the first year and another 46.8 percent in 2016. Spending then increased 43.1 percent in 2017. At the end of the 10-year period from 2008 to 2017, capital spending in the mining had reached $132.6 billion.


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*These data are subject to sampling/non-sampling error.

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Sector Highlights for Companies with Employees

  • Sectors showing the largest absolute increases in their capital investments from 2008 to 2017 included utilities (up $35.0 billion or 35.5 percent), manufacturing (up $35.2 billion or 16.5 percent), wholesale trade (up $11.0 billion or 34.0 percent), retail trade (up $18.6 billion or 25.4 percent), transportation and warehousing (up $30.5 billion or 38.4 percent), information (up $55.3 billion or 53.5 percent), finance and insurance (up $34.6 billion or 26.0 percent), real estate and rental and leasing (up $51.4 billion or 48.1 percent), and health care and social assistance (up $14.6 billion or 16.2 percent).
  • The mining sector showed the largest absolute decrease in capital investments over the 10-year period (down $16.7 billion or 11.2 percent). In 2008, capital spending totaled $149.3 billion. In 2009, capital spending decreased 32.6 percent to $100.6 billion. Spending then increased for the next three years, 15.1 percent in 2010, 43.1 percent in 2011, and 18.7 percent in 2012. Spending showed no significant change in 2013 but then increased 14.1 percent in 2014. However, spending began a two-year decline in 2015, dropping 24.6 percent the first year and another 46.8 percent in 2016. Spending then increased 43.1 percent in 2017. At the end of the 10-year period from 2008 to 2017, capital spending in the mining had reached $132.6 billion.

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*These data are subject to sampling/non-sampling error.

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Sector-level Highlights

(Alphabetical Order)

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Accommodation and Food Services

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*These data are subject to sampling/non-sampling error.

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Administrative and Support and Waste Management

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*These data are subject to sampling/non-sampling error.

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Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation

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*These data are subject to sampling/non-sampling error.

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Construction

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*These data are subject to sampling/non-sampling error.

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Educational Services

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*These data are subject to sampling/non-sampling error.

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Finance and Insurance

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*These data are subject to sampling/non-sampling error.

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Forestry, Fishing, and Agricultural Services

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*These data are subject to sampling/non-sampling error.

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Health Care and Social Assistance

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*These data are subject to sampling/non-sampling error.

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Information

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*These data are subject to sampling/non-sampling error.

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Management of Companies and Enterprises

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*These data are subject to sampling/non-sampling error.

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Manufacturing

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*These data are subject to sampling/non-sampling error.

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Mining

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*These data are subject to sampling/non-sampling error.

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Other Services (Except Public Administration)

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*These data are subject to sampling/non-sampling error.

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Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services

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*These data are subject to sampling/non-sampling error.

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Real Estate and Rental and Leasing

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*These data are subject to sampling/non-sampling error.

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Retail Trade

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*These data are subject to sampling/non-sampling error.

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Transportation and Warehousing

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*These data are subject to sampling/non-sampling error.

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Utilities

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*These data are subject to sampling/non-sampling error.

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Wholesale Trade

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*These data are subject to sampling/non-sampling error.

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For more information, See Technical Documentation Methodology Data Quality for information on sampling variability, confidence intervals and statistical significance.

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