CHRISTMAS BUILDUP: Spending on U.S. construction projects rose 0.9 percent in December, as housing and nonresidential construction posted gains while spending on government projects fell.

STRONGER YEAR: For all of 2012, construction activity increased for the first time in six years. Construction spending rose 9.2 percent to $850.2 billion compared with 2011, when it fell 3.3 percent.

ROOM FOR MORE MUSCLE: Construction activity is still 27.2 percent below the all-time high of $1.17 trillion set in 2006 at the peak of the housing boom.