Carpenters work on the roof of an affordable housing project...

Carpenters work on the roof of an affordable housing project in North Andover, Mass. Builders started work on fewer homes, apartments and government projects in February, pushing construction activity down to the lowest level in more than a decade. (March 17, 2011) Credit: AP

Builders started work on fewer homes, apartments and government projects in February, pushing construction activity down to the lowest level in more than a decade.

The Commerce Department says construction spending tumbled for a third straight month, dropping 1.4 percent in February. The weakness pushed total activity down to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $760.6 billion, the smallest total since October 1999.

That was below the previous recession low set back in August. Activity at the February level is about half the $1.5 trillion pace that economists believe would signal a healthy construction sector.

They think it could take up to four years for construction to fully recover from the bursting of a housing bubble that pushed the country into a deep recession.

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