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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 »

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).

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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%.

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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.
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Top 10 Largest Construction Project Starts in the U.S. – July 2016

 
August 18th, 2016 by Alex Carrick, Chief Economist at ConstructConnect

Article source: ConstructConnect

The accompanying table records the 10 largest construction project starts in the U.S. in July 2016.

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 job-site work actually gets underway. And, as showcase projects, they highlight geographically where major construction projects are proceeding.

Also, total construction activity is comprised of many small and medium-sized projects and a limited number of large developments. But the largest projects, simply by their nature, can dramatically affect total dollar and square footage volumes. In other words, the timing and size of these projects have an exaggerated influence on market forecasts.
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Nonresidential Construction Starts Trend Graphs – July 2016

 
August 17th, 2016 by Alex Carrick, Chief Economist at ConstructConnect

Article source: ConstructConnect

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.

And that’s what the graphs are designed to do, show improving or deteriorating trends in a dozen major and more granular categories of construction work.

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Washington Sets the Pace in Northern Atlantic Region

 
July 21st, 2016 by Alex Carrick, Chief Economist at ConstructConnect

Article source: ConstructConnect

The accompanying tables rank seven major cities along America’s northern Atlantic coastline according to eight demographic and economic criteria. In the ‘overall’ listing that appears at the end of this article, Washington comes out best and Philadelphia worst. To reach those conclusions, however, it has been necessary to journey through the following data sets.

Population size: It’s no surprise that New York (20.2 million) is number one in terms of population size. Washington and Philadelphia (both with 6.1 million) are virtually tied for second. Across the U.S. as a whole, the population of Los Angeles (13.3 million) is not as big a step back from ‘The Big Apple’ as one might suppose.

Population change: With respect to population change, measured as the average annual growth rate over the latest two years for which statistics are available, Washington (+1.12%) is on top, followed by Richmond (+1.00%). New York (+0.47%) is in the middle and Philadelphia (+0.28%) and Providence (+0.25%) are barely making any headway at all.

Housing Starts: Residential building permits, as compiled by the Census Bureau and readily made available at the website of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), serve as the equivalent of new home starts for cities in the U.S. Through May of this year, New York (14,582 units) has been the leader in the number of residential building permits issued. Washington (10,937) has placed second. Providence hasn’t even exceeded 1,000-units.
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Nonresidential Construction Starts Trend Graphs – June 2016

 
July 16th, 2016 by Alex Carrick, Chief Economist at ConstructConnect

Article source: ConstructConnect

Nonresidential Construction Starts Trend Graphs – June 2016 – ConstructConnect.com

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.
Read the rest of Nonresidential Construction Starts Trend Graphs – June 2016

ConstructConnect’s Starts Continue Winning Trend in April

 
May 16th, 2016 by Alex Carrick, Chief Economist at ConstructConnect

Article source: ConstructConnect

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%.
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Ten Mid-May Economic Nuggets

 
May 13th, 2016 by Alex Carrick, Chief Economist at ConstructConnect

Article source: ConstructConnect

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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