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Alex Carrick, Chief Economist at ConstructConnect
Alex Carrick, Chief Economist at ConstructConnect
Alex Carrick is Chief Economist for ConstructConnect. He is a frequent contributor to the Daily Commercial News and the Journal of Commerce. He has delivered presentations throughout North America on the Canadian, United States and world construction outlooks. A trusted and often-quoted source for … More »

Springy Bounce in ConstructConnect’s March Starts, +18%

 
April 19th, 2017 by Alex Carrick, Chief Economist at ConstructConnect

Article source: ConstructConnect

ConstructConnect announced today that March construction starts, excluding residential activity, were +17.8 versus February. The long-term February-to-March advance, due to seasonality, has been only +2.5%. It’s usually not until April that more accommodating weather causes a big lift in volume of about +12.0%. Spring has apparently come early for groundbreakings this year.

2017-04-18-US-Nonresidential-Construction-Starts-Mar-2017
March 2017 versus what was an exceptionally buoyant March 2016 did not fare as well, -5.9%. And year-to-date starts (Q1 2017) have been -5.1% versus January-to-March of last year.


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.

‘Nonresidential 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 February report was 60%; the latter’s was 40%.

ConstructConnect’s construction starts are leading indicators for the Census Bureau’s capital investment or put-in-place series. Also, the reporting period for starts (i.e., March 2017) is one month ahead of the reporting period for the investment series (i.e., February 2017.)

View this information as an infographic.
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ConstructConnect’s -2% February Starts Almost Hold Their Ground

 
March 23rd, 2017 by Alex Carrick, Chief Economist at ConstructConnect

Article source: ConstructConnect

ConstructConnect announced today that February starts, excluding residential activity, nearly held their own versus an upwardly revised January. The latest month’s level of $26.2 billion was only -1.7% compared with the volume in the month before.

2017-03-21-US-Nonresidential-Construction-Starts-Feb-2017

Throughout the long-term history of the starts, there has been a typical drop – due to weather-related factors − of -2.5% between January and February. Harsh conditions in winter can put a halt to field work. February, however, is the last in a string of months during which starts tend to decline period-to-period on account of seasonality. From March through July, the tendency is for starts to pick up from one month to the next.

Starts in February 2017 versus what was an exceptionally strong February 2016 were -9.2%. Year-to-date starts in 2017 compared with January-to-February of last year were -7.5%.

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.

‘Nonresidential 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 January report was 60%; the latter’s was 40%.
Read the rest of ConstructConnect’s -2% February Starts Almost Hold Their Ground

Top 10 Project Starts in the U.S. – February 2017

 
March 21st, 2017 by Alex Carrick, Chief Economist at ConstructConnect

Article source: ConstructConnect

The accompanying table records the top 10 project starts in the U.S. for February 2017.

2017-03-21-Top-10-US-Projects-Feb-2017

There are several reasons for highlighting upcoming large projects. Such jobs have often received a fair amount of media coverage. Therefore, people in the industry are on the lookout for when jobsite work actually gets underway. And, as showcase projects, they highlight geographically where major construction projects are proceeding.

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Nonresidential Construction Starts Trend Graphs – February 2017

 
March 20th, 2017 by Alex Carrick, Chief Economist at ConstructConnect

Article source: ConstructConnect

Clichés are often true and it is the case that a picture can be worth a thousand words.

2017-03-21-US-Nonresidential-Construction-Start-Trends-Feb-2017

Below are six graphs recording 12-month moving averages of ConstructConnect ’s nonresidential construction starts.

When the value of the current month is higher than for the same month a year ago, the line will turn up; when lower, it will dip.

String a couple of similar positive or negative directional changes together over several months and one has a trend.
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A Dozen Mid-March Economic Nuggets

 
March 13th, 2017 by Alex Carrick, Chief Economist at ConstructConnect

Article source: ConstructConnect

Further big improvements in America’s labor market statistics at the beginning of this year – with net new jobs creation climbing by almost half a million (+473,000) and the unemployment rate falling to a tight 4.7% − have convinced many analysts that the Federal Reserve will be acting quite aggressively in 2017 to hike interest rates. Where before there was an expectation that the federal funds rate would be lifted two or three times through December, by 25 basis points on each occasion (with 100 basis points equaling 1.00%), the consensus now is for an upward adjustment more frequently, either three or four times.

The Fed is probably hoping to attain, in easy-to-absorb stages over this year and next, a key policy-setting rate close to 3.00%. Nor are stock markets viewing such a prospect with anything like the same amount of dread as in the not so distant past. Share prices have been on a roll that has taken them to all-time highs.

Canada’s most recent employment report had a bottom line figure that wasn’t particularly outstanding (i.e., net new jobs of +15,000 in February), but included in the detail was an impressive increase in full-time staffing (+105,000), with most of the gain (+84,000) coming among what are termed ‘core-aged’ women (i.e., females 25-to-54 years of age).
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9% Drop in ConstructConnect’s January Starts Matches Usual Seasonality

 
March 1st, 2017 by Alex Carrick, Chief Economist at ConstructConnect

Article source: ConstructConnect

ConstructConnect announced today that January’s level of U.S. construction starts, excluding residential activity, was $24.6 billion, a decrease of 9.1% versus the dollar volume in the period before. The month-to-month drop was almost an exact match for the usual December-to-January decline of -8.5%. Due to harsh winter weather – which is another way of saying ‘seasonality’ – January is traditionally the worst month of the year for construction groundbreakings or starts.

2017-02-27-US-Nonresidential-Construction-Starts-Jan-2017

Starts in January 2017 versus their level in January 2016 were also down, -11.6%. January 2017 compared with average January starts over the five years, 2012 to 2016, was +6.0%.

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.

‘Nonresidential 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 December report was 61%; the latter’s was 39%.

ConstructConnect’s construction starts are leading indicators for the Census Bureau’s capital investment or put-in-place series. Also, the reporting period for starts (i.e., January 2017) is one month ahead of the reporting period for the investment series (i.e., December 2016.)
Read the rest of 9% Drop in ConstructConnect’s January Starts Matches Usual Seasonality

A Composite Ranking of Job Markets in 50 U.S. and 33 Canadian Cities

 
February 24th, 2017 by Alex Carrick, Chief Economist at ConstructConnect

Article source: ConstructConnect

Trying to get a handle on the relative performances of city labor markets is complicated by the fact that strength and weakness in the two most important indicators – jobs growth and the unemployment rate – are the reverse of each other.

What’s most desirable is a high rather than a low employment growth figure. But with respect to a jobless number, the wish is for a low rather than a high number.

There is a relatively simple means to circumvent this problem. First, rank all the cities under consideration according to their year-over-year jobs growth, fastest to slowest. Then compile a second listing according to unemployment rates, smallest to biggest.

The third critical stage is to calculate the average ranking for each city from steps one and two and to use that new number to place them in order by their ‘composite’ ranking.

The results for the 50 largest (by population) metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) in the U.S. are shown in Table 1. Table 2 is similar for Canada, showcasing the nation’s 33 census metropolitan areas (CMAs).

Read the rest of A Composite Ranking of Job Markets in 50 U.S. and 33 Canadian Cities

ConstructConnect’s December Starts Defied Seasonality With 3.4% Increase

 
January 20th, 2017 by Alex Carrick, Chief Economist at ConstructConnect

Article source: ConstructConnect

ConstructConnect announced today that December’s level of U.S. construction starts, excluding residential activity, was $24.0 billion, an increase of 3.4% versus the dollar volume in the period before. The gain, small though it may have been, was welcome nonetheless since November-to-December’s long-term average change, on account of inhibiting winter weather, has been -5.0%.

December of 2016, however, compared with December of 2015 was -5.6%. But it’s encouraging that total nonresidential starts for full year 2016 stayed ahead of full-year 2015 by +6.8%.

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.

‘Nonresidential 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 November report was 61%; the latter’s was 39%.

ConstructConnect’s construction starts are leading indicators for the Census Bureau’s capital investment or put-in-place series. Also, the reporting period for starts (i.e., December 2016) is one month ahead of the reporting period for the investment series (i.e., November 2016.)

Canada’s Jobs Picture Improved Modestly in November

 
December 6th, 2016 by Alex Carrick, Chief Economist at ConstructConnect

Article source: ConstructConnect

Canadian total employment in November rose by 11,000 jobs, according to the latest Labour Force Survey from Statistics Canada, marking a slowdown from the three prior months: October, +44,000; September, +67,000; and August, +27,000. July’s change was -32,000 jobs.

From January through November of last year, the average month-to-month gain in total employment in Canada was +12,000. For the same time frame this year, there has been an improvement to +15,000. If the economy were performing better, a figure closer to +20,000 per month would be expected.

The national unemployment rate dropped to 6.8% in the latest month from 7.0% in October. The decline is explained by a lower participation rate, which fell from 65.8% to 65.6%. In other words, a smaller percentage of the labour force was looking for work in November than in the month before.

There are some interesting differences in unemployment rates according to demographic groupings.

For all workers aged 25 to 54, the current jobless rate is lower for women (5.2%) than for men (6.3%).

For older individuals, − i.e., those aged 55-plus − the jobless-rate advantage held by women over men is even more pronounced, 4.7% compared with 6.6%.

Read the rest of Canada’s Jobs Picture Improved Modestly in November

With Few Exceptions, U.S. Construction Material Costs Continue to Speak Softly

 
September 1st, 2016 by Alex Carrick, Chief Economist at ConstructConnect

Article source: ConstructConnect

Table 1 accompanying this article sets out U.S. price movements for numerous construction materials from a variety of time markers in the past to the present (i.e., July 2016).

The data comes from the Producer Price Index (PPI) series calculated and published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Graphs showing the history of the behind-the-scenes index figures on which the percentage changes in Table 1 are based also appear below.

Some of Table 1’s most significant shifts have been as follows.

The charge for softwood lumber in July of this year was +7.8% compared with six months earlier, but it was a more modest +3.0% when set next to July of 2015.
Read the rest of With Few Exceptions, U.S. Construction Material Costs Continue to Speak Softly

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