WASHINGTON (AP) _ Spending on construction rose a surprising 0.1 percent in May as a jump in spending by the private sector on commercial buildings more than offset reduced outlays for residential and big government projects.

The Commerce Department reported Monday that construction spending nationwide edged up to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $809.3 billion in May, up from an April figure of $808.2 billion

The performance was stronger than many analysts expected. They were forecasting that construction spending would fall by 0.3 percent in May.

In April, construction spending fell by 1.1 percent, a sharper decline than the government previously estimated.

The Federal Reserve has boosted interest rates six times in the last 12 months to slow the economy and keep inflation under control. The Fed's rate increases are designed to make borrowing more expensive and cool demand for such big-ticket items as cars and homes.

Last week, the Fed, citing preliminary signs of slowing, decided not to raise rates for a seventh time, but left the door open to further rate increases should inflation worsen.

May's increase was led by a 3.5 percent rise in spending by the private sector on commercial projects. That pushed such spending to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $225.9 billion in May.

Increases were registered in industrial projects and hotels and motels, while decreases were posted for office buildings. In April, spending on commercial, or nonresidential projects, inched up 0.1 percent.

May's rise in spending for all private nonresidential projects more than outweighed declines elsewhere.

Spending on big government projects fell 2.8 percent in May to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $169.3 billion after a 3.1 percent decline in April.

Outlays for public housing, highways and streets declined, while spending on schools and hospitals increased.

For residential projects, spending fell 0.4 percent to a rate of $368 billion in May with both new single-family homes and apartment and condo complexes showing declines. In April, spending on all residential projects fell 0.7 percent.