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Alex Carrick, Chief Economist at the CMD Group
Alex Carrick, Chief Economist at the CMD Group
Alex Carrick is Chief Economist for CanaData, Reed Construction Data’s Canadian economic forecasting and statistical service. CanaData’s products include a monthly forecast newsletter, cost indices, regional and custom starts reports and an annual conference. He is a frequent contributor to the … More »

ConstructConnect’s Starts Continue Winning Trend in April

 
May 16th, 2016 by Alex Carrick, Chief Economist at the CMD Group

Article source: CMDGroup

ConstructConnect announced today that April’s level of U.S. construction starts, excluding residential work, was $30.1 billion, a further climb of +8.1% month to month on top of March’s leap of +14.0%. Since the usual or long-term average gains in March and April, due to seasonality, are +2.5% and +12.0%, the kick-off to 2016’s spring has been more than kind to the construction sector.

Comparing April of this year with what was an admittedly lackluster same fourth month of last year, the change was an outsized +30.7%. That’s approaching one-third higher. The level of year-to-date starts in 2016 has been +14.5% versus the January to April time frame of 2015.

The starts figures throughout this report are not seasonally adjusted (NSA). Nor are they altered for inflation. They are expressed in what are termed ‘current’ as opposed to ‘constant’ dollars.

‘Non-residential building’ plus ‘engineering/civil’ work accounts for a considerably larger share of total construction than residential activity. The former’s combined proportion of total put-in-place construction in the Census Bureau’s March report was 60%; the latter’s was 40%.
Read the rest of ConstructConnect’s Starts Continue Winning Trend in April

Ten Mid-May Economic Nuggets

 
May 13th, 2016 by Alex Carrick, Chief Economist at the CMD Group

Article source: CMDGroup

The U.S. and Canadian economies appear to have entered a ‘blah’ stretch. In April, U.S. total employment rose by 160,000 jobs, a tepid figure compared with the previous two months (i.e., +208,000 in March and +233,000 in February). The unemployment rate, though, stayed the same as in March, at a tight 5.0%.

The latest U.S. initial jobless claims figure shot up to 294,000 for the week ending May 7. Only four weeks prior, it had been as low as 248,000. The most recent 294,000 number does extend the streak of beating 300,000 for more than a year. If that’s ever been done before, it was way back in the early 1970s. But 294,000 is now cutting it close. It doesn’t permit much wiggle room. The foreheads of some economists are beginning to show worry lines.

Canada’s jobs pool shrank by 3,000 in April, although again the unemployment rate stayed on a par with the month before, at 7.1%. Total employment in Canada is presently +0.8% year over year, which is less than half the U.S. rate of increase, +1.9%. Specifically for the construction sector, on-site employment in the U.S., at +4.1% year over year, is significantly outpacing Canada’s +1.4%.

Against this backdrop, there are the following additional ‘nuggets’ to be gleaned from the latest government agency and private sector data releases. The ‘soil’ is rich and the ‘crop’ abundant.

(1) Where are the jobs of the future? With an aging population, on account of the post-World War II baby boom generation moving half-way and further down the hall of life, providing expanded and personalized health care is becoming more critical. Consider the following percentage changes. While the year-over-year increase in total employment in the U.S. economy in April was +1.8%, the jobs climb at hospitals was +4.0%; at assisted living facilities for the elderly, +4.1%; and in home health care, +6.1%.

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15 Eye-Catching Charts that Highlight Trends in Canada and U.S. Jobs (Part 1)

 
May 11th, 2016 by Alex Carrick, Chief Economist at the CMD Group

Article source: CMDGroup

Note: The graphs (‘New Graphs’ and ‘Canada Graphs’ tabs in excel file) are integral to the article, but the text is actually standalone.

There’s a diversity of ways to assess the strength of an industry within the broader context of the overall economy. Stock market investors prefer to look at profit levels and price-earnings ratios. Financial institutions focus on debt and cash flow. Economists often choose jobs levels.

Whether or not employment is on the upswing can give a pretty good indication of which way firms in a particular sector are leaning in terms of investment spending or construction projects.

Previous Economy at a Glances have featured employment-level charts for key U.S. sub-sectors. Similar graphs have now been developed for Canada and they are featured in this EAAG.

The underlying data for the U.S. and Canada comes from surveys of employers. A significant point of difference, however, is that the U.S. numbers are seasonally adjusted. For Canada, they are moving 12-month averages of not seasonally adjusted (NSA) figures, placed in the latest month.
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April Jobs Reports U.S. and Canada – “Move Along, Please. Not Much Happening Here”

 
May 10th, 2016 by Alex Carrick, Chief Economist at the CMD Group

Article source: CMDGroup

Standing on the periphery of today’s jobs reports from the U.S. and Canada, I feel more like a cop on the beat, when confronted by bystanders at a minor altercation, than an economist.

My gut reaction is to say, “Move along, please. Not much happening here.” But I don’t want to put you off from reading the rest of this article.

In both countries, the unemployment rates stayed the same, 5.0% for America’s economy and 7.1% for Canada’s.

Month-to-month job creation in the U.S. was a decent enough 160,000, but it was below the 200,000 benchmark that gets everyone at least a little excited.

The last time the month-to-month increase in employment was as low occurred in September of last year (149,000), although January of this year wasn’t that much better (168,000).

Our expectations may have become slightly overblown, after February and March figures of +233,000 and +208,000 respectively.

2016’s monthly average gain in jobs through April, at +192,000, has now dropped by 6.3% compared with the same first four months of 2015, at +205,000.

The latest month-to-month employment increase for the services sector (+174,000) was actually greater than for the economy as whole. Therefore, goods-production must have acted as a drag on payrolls and indeed that was the case. The workforce in ‘mining and logging’ was downsized by 8,000 positions.

Read the rest of April Jobs Reports U.S. and Canada – “Move Along, Please. Not Much Happening Here”

By No Means is it the Same Old World (Part 3)

 
May 9th, 2016 by Alex Carrick, Chief Economist at the CMD Group

Article source: CMDGroup

Parts 1 and 2 of this Economy at a Glance carried us past the halfway point of our extended jaunt through the major changes underway in society today.

It’s time to wrap up with economy- and, indeed, life-altering transitions (8) through (12).

(8) Logistics rule: One could be forgiven for thinking that better logistics is the holy grail of aspirations.

The best strategizing generals have always known that wars aren’t necessarily won by valor or military skill.

Nor even by a single decisive victory.

To arrive at such a desirable outcome, the winning side must first have good logistics – i.e., effective means to supply warriors and machines with food and fuel. These are the secure supply lines that are so touted in military jargon.

Otherwise, you’ll find yourself retreating from Moscow, à la Napoleon Bonaparte, subsequent to a fades-too-quickly glorious success at the battle of Borodino.

Read the rest of By No Means is it the Same Old World (Part 3)

By No Means is it the Same Old World (Part 2)

 
May 5th, 2016 by Alex Carrick, Chief Economist at the CMD Group

Article source: CMDGroup

Part 1 of this Economy at a Glance introduced the topic of a dozen major ways in which the structure of society and the framework of the global economy are changing beyond what humankind has ever experienced before.

In Part 2, let’s dive right in with transition number (4), which will then lead organically into (5) and beyond.

(4) Rock star central bankers: Given that establishment politicians have been passing out of favor, maybe it’s just as well that central bank Chairmen and Governors have stepped into the spotlight.

Changes to taxation, spending and other fiscal tools to guide the economy have fallen out of favor and almost the whole responsibility for managing output, employment and other prosperity  indicators has fallen on each nation’s central bank.

Read the rest of By No Means is it the Same Old World (Part 2)

By No Means is it the Same Old World (Part 1)

 
May 4th, 2016 by Alex Carrick, Chief Economist at the CMD Group

Article source: CMDGroup

I’m writing this article on May 1, but it’s not an April Fools’ joke. Sure, there have been other times in world history, during war or plague, when turmoil has been so intense as to test, to the limits and beyond, the fortitude of mankind and womankind.

Still, I’m not sure humanity has ever before been on the cusp of so many changes that are already, or are on the verge of, shaking up the ways in which we live and interact with one another; and govern our economic and social affairs; and inspire dreams about really and truly astonishing futures.

The notion for writing this article first came to mind on account of six or so major trends that I’m always mulling over when I write about the economy and the construction sector. Upon deeper reflection, the number of discernible seismic shifts quickly expanded to a dozen.

There may well be more. Feel free to contact me if you believe I’ve failed to mention something equally or more important.

The following 12 sections have also been inspired by the question I’m always asking myself and which I know is of prime concern to you as well. What will be the implications for the construction sector?
Read the rest of By No Means is it the Same Old World (Part 1)

A Dozen Mid-April Economic Nuggets

 
April 15th, 2016 by Alex Carrick, Chief Economist at the CMD Group

Article source: CMDGroup

It may just be the calm before another storm, but the economic news seems to have quietened down quite a bit over the last little while. As for the political news, as both the Democrats and Republicans race towards their leadership conventions in a few months, that’s another story.

The pain in the oil sector on account of the deeply depressed price of crude is finally leading to some self-correcting courses of action. In the U.S. and Canada, capital spending plans have been slashed and production levels in the fracking sector significantly reduced. Internationally, Iran isn’t expected to ramp up export sales as quickly as once thought. And other OPEC members, including Saudi Arabia, appear intent on re-imposing a degree of control over their output levels.

The global price of oil may have found a floor near $40 USD per barrel. That’s a lot better than when it was nosediving towards $20. Furthermore, it will still provide car drivers, when they fill up, with gasoline charges that are pleasing bargains. Freeing up money so that it can be spent in other areas will prove especially important as the summer vacation season quickly arrives.

Against this backdrop, there are the following additional ‘nuggets’ to be gleaned from the latest government agency and private sector data releases. The ‘soil’ is rich and the ‘crop’ abundant.

(1) Let’s begin with CMD’s own construction starts statistics. Perhaps the most informative way to look at the numbers is to compare the year so far (i.e., through the first quarter, 2016) with the same time frame in 2015. On such a basis, grand total starts, in ‘current’ (i.e., not adjusted for inflation) dollars, were +7.4%, with major type-of-structure sub-categories performing as follows: residential, +3.7%; non-residential building, +11.8%; and heavy engineering, +5.8%.
Read the rest of A Dozen Mid-April Economic Nuggets

U.S. and Canadian City Long-term Home Start Trends – Proxy for Vitality Part 1

 
April 13th, 2016 by Alex Carrick, Chief Economist at the CMD Group

Article source: CMDGroup

While practicing the ‘art’ of economics, sometimes the statistics just fall into your lap.

For example, heading into 2016, it was the consensus opinion among analysts that Ontario and British Columbia would have the best upcoming growth performances among Canada’s ten provinces.

Consequently, there were grins from ear to ear among my fraternity when March’s Labour Force Survey from Statistics Canada showed Ontario with the largest year-over-year increase in jobs at +86,000, with British Columbia not far behind, at +72,000.

No other province was even close. In fact, the sum of Ontario and B.C., at +152,000, was greater than for the country as a whole, +130,000.

The material in this current Economy at a Glance continues in a similar vein. I’ve graphed the relatively long-term history of housing starts, from 1980 to the present, for the major cities in the U.S. and Canada and allowed Microsoft’s Excel to add a trend line.

Read the rest of U.S. and Canadian City Long-term Home Start Trends – Proxy for Vitality Part 1

A Great Canada Jobs Report for March but Head Scratchers Galore

 
April 8th, 2016 by Alex Carrick, Chief Economist at the CMD Group

Article source: CMDGroup

There’s going to be a lot of cheering about Canada’s March labour market numbers as reported by Statistics Canada. The latest Labour Force Survey shows a month-to-month pick-up in total employment of 41,000 positions and a jobless rate that fell 0.2 percentage points to 7.1% from 7.3% in February.

Furthermore, most of the overall jobs increase (+35,000) occurred in the usually more stable and higher-paying, and thus better quality, full-time category of work as opposed to part-time (+6,000) activities.

Plus, all the boost to employment was provided by the private sector (+65,000), as the public sector downsized slightly (-2,000). Self-employment (-22,000) staged a significant retreat.

Still, there were some real oddities in the rest of the figures.
Read the rest of A Great Canada Jobs Report for March but Head Scratchers Galore

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