In addition, comments made here also include some non-GAAP financial measures. Those measures are reconciled to comparable GAAP measures and are included in the press release and the earnings slide materials.
Now, let me turn the call over to Tim.
Thank you Jim. Welcome everyone and thank you for joining us this morning. As we typically do on these calls, I will provide you with some overview commentary on the results we announced this morning, and then Dave will provide you with a more detailed discussion of our financial performance. I will then share my perspective on the outlook for 2012 and then we will open up the calls for your questions.
I will refer to the presentation materials that you can find on our website, and I will start on page 3. I am very pleased to report that we finished 2011 on a strong note. Our sales increased by 16% with both segments reporting double-digit increases.
We reported operating margins of 14.8% which represents a 60 basis point improvement versus last year’s fourth quarter. Our margin improvement was due primarily to the higher volume and importantly we were successful in offsetting commodity cost increases with pricing actions. We experienced over normal seasonal pattern of incoming orders, where the fourth quarter slows down sequentially after the third, but exhibiting strong growth year-over-year.
The utility market remained strong led by demand for transmission products; the industrial market was also strong lead by our businesses selling into the energy markets. The new construction spending in the US non-residential market was weak, but was offset by demand for renovation and relight projects. That we’re seeing building owner operators make the decision to retrofit their facilities due to the savings in energy and maintenance, and very short paybacks.
On the residential side, single family housing remained soft, while stronger demand for multiple family housing projects has provided some offset. The quarter contained some highlights that are worthy of note. First we were able to overcome the upward pressure from commodity cost increases with price actions to create a tailwind for the quarter. While price cost was a drag on earnings for the entire year, we hope this quarter proves to be a turning point and while commodities have moderated they are volatile, and we are continually monitoring them to determine if and when pricing actions are needed.