WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. construction spending surged in January at the fastest rate in a year, the government said on Friday in a report that reinforced signs of an economic recovery.

The value of new construction in the United States jumped 1.5 percent to $876.7 billion from $864.0 billion in December, the Commerce Department reported. That was well above the 0.3 percent increase predicted by U.S. economists in a Reuters survey and dovetailed with other data suggesting the economy is pulling out of a recession that began last March.

The gain in January construction spending was the biggest since a 2.5 percent increase in January 2001.

In one especially encouraging sign, private-sector spending on industrial buildings, which has fallen off sharply over the past year, helped to drive the strength in construction outlays.

Spending on new factories and other industrial buildings rose 2.6 percent in January. Overall spending on the broad category of private, nonresidential buildings, which also includes office buildings and hospitals, increased 2.2 percent.

Residential spending edged up 0.1 percent. Spending on public construction soared 3.7 percent as the government funneled money toward new schools and highway projects.