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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 »

U.S. Economy and Construction Markets – Executive Summary for Greenbuild

 
November 13th, 2015 by Alex Carrick, Chief Economist at ConstructConnect

Article source: CMDGroup

  • Globally, the U.S. economy is outperforming all others.
  • Europe is still sluggish and the ECB (European Central Bank) may embark on more quantitative easing. Likewise Japan and its central bank. China’s monetary agency has been lowering interest rates to stimulate growth.
  • In the mid-00s, China accounted for 40% to 50% of world demand for most commodities. With China’s slowdown, prices for raw materials worldwide are in the doldrums.
  • The present economic forecast can be labeled a ‘throwback’ in the sense that it’s similar to the 1990s and earlier when the U.S. always led growth internationally.
  • Furthermore, in those ‘old’ days, U.S. prospects were limited by large-volume foreign energy imports. Now, thanks to domestic fracking, that handicap has been lifted.
  • The U.S. monthly foreign trade deficit (annualized) has shrunk from a range of -$600 to -$800 (billions) to -$400 to -$600 (billions). The reduction is quite positive for GDP.
  • China’s growth has dimmed from a range of +10% to +12% to an ‘official figure’ of +6.5%. Many analysts believe the nation’s annual advance may truly be closer to +3.5%.
  • In an unprecedented turnaround, there have been several months this year when the U.S. has recorded a trade surplus with both OPEC and Saudi Arabia. A cause for headlines.
  • The Federal Reserve will likely begin to hike the federal funds rate in December. The increments over the next couple of years will almost certainly be tiny (100 basis points at most each year, where 100 basis points = 1.00%).
  • When the U.S. economy is functioning on all cylinders, annual ‘real’ (i.e., adjusted for inflation) gross domestic product (GDP) growth is +3.5%. From 2015 through 2017, probably the best that can be hoped for is +2.0% to +2.5%.

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October’s Jobs Report: Terrific for U.S.; Maybe Marvelous for Canada

 
November 6th, 2015 by Alex Carrick, Chief Economist at ConstructConnect

Article source: CMDGroup

There were worries after the issuance of labor market reports for August and September that indicated month-to-month job creation in the U.S. was slowing to +150,000 or less.

October’s data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) sends those clouds scurrying away.

The BLS says the latest net increase in jobs was +271,000, the greatest gain in any month so far this year. It lifts the average in 2015, with only November and December still remaining, to +206,000.

While 2014’s monthly average, January to October, was somewhat faster, at +236,000, a figure of +200,000 or higher warrants an enthusiastic response.

America’s jobless rate now sits at 5.0%, a marginal decline from September’s 5.1%, but more significantly down versus October 2014’s 5.7%.

Unless some other statistics on the U.S. economy (e.g., retail trade) come in far worse than expected, the Federal Reserve will now almost assuredly begin to take action on interest rates at the December meeting of its Open Market Committee (FOMC).

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Where Job Prospects are Brightest and Home Ownership is Cheapest

 
November 6th, 2015 by Alex Carrick, Chief Economist at ConstructConnect

Article source: CMDGroup

Tables 1 and 2 accompanying this Economy at a Glance compare labor markets with home prices in major U.S. and Canadian cities.

The reason for conducting this analysis can be summed up succinctly. It shows where job prospects are brightest while home ownership is cheapest.

The labor market ‘composite’ ranking has been based on an assessment of two criteria: year-over-year employment growth (from fastest to slowest) and unemployment rates (from lowest to highest).

Median or average home prices (and their year-over-year percentage changes) can be found at the web sites of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA).

It would be interesting to draw a line connecting every city to its doppelganger in the tables, but that would yield a confusing blizzard. Therefore, only ones in support of this EAAG’s headline are shown.

From the U.S. table, it’s clear that San Jose (2) and San Francisco (5) have strong labor markets that are accompanied by high home prices – i.e., on the right side of the table, they have corresponding rankings of (1) and (2) respectively.

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Mild Turbulence in U.S. and Canadian Labor Markets

 
October 16th, 2015 by Alex Carrick, Chief Economist at ConstructConnect

Article source: CMDGroup

It’s not rocket science. There are a few key benchmarks to be aware of concerning U.S. and Canadian labor markets.

For the U.S. economy, a net jobs gain of 170,000 in any given month will be viewed as acceptable by most economists, analysts and pundits.

If the figure climbs to 200,000 or higher, their mood will elevate into a range from happy to ecstatic.

Below 170,000, doubts creep in. That’s why the Department of Labor’s September number of +143,000, combined with a downward revision of August’s level to +136,000, was met with such alarm, at first.

Stock markets reacted negatively to the news. But then another train of thought took over.
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The Sometimes Mysterious Sources for Put-in-place Construction Statistics in the U.S. and Canada

 
September 23rd, 2015 by Alex Carrick, Chief Economist at ConstructConnect

Article source: CMDGroup

Obtaining data on put-in-place construction activity in the U.S. and Canada isn’t quite the straightforward path one might assume it to be.

(Put-in-place statistics are like ‘progress payments’ as projects proceed. They lag ‘starts’ information that essentially captures ‘shovels-in-the-ground’ activity.)

On balance, I’d say the U.S. put-in-place statistics are a little easier to find; plus they’re timelier.

Monthly seasonally-adjusted-at-annual-rate (SAAR) and not seasonally adjusted (NSA) numbers are published by the Census Bureau at the following site: http://www.census.gov/construction/c30/c30index.html.

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A Dozen Mid-September Economic Nuggets

 
September 17th, 2015 by Alex Carrick, Chief Economist at ConstructConnect

Article source: CMDGroup

September 17 is fast approaching. In fact, by the time you read this, it may already have been and gone. Why is that date so important? Because that’€™s when the next Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve is scheduled to meet, with an announcement concerning interest rates to follow.

The federal funds rate hasn’€™t been altered from a range of 0.00% to 0.25% since December 16, 2008, nearly seven years ago. In mid-summer of this year, there seemed to be a strong likelihood the Fed would begin shifting yields higher in September. Then world stock markets fell into disarray as growth projections for China’€™s economy were scaled back and the yuan was devalued, slightly.

If the fed temporarily delays pulling the trigger out of concern over fragile world trade, the next FOMC meeting dates to mark on your calendar are October 28 and December 16 of this year and January 27 of 2016. Odds are pretty good that somewhere in that time frame, the fed will initiate tighter credit market action.

The Fed’€™s decision-making will take place against a backdrop that includes the following economic nuggets, as revealed in government reports and through media dissemination.
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Fascinating Statistics (for Canada, Saudi Arabia and Others) From the Latest U.S. Foreign Trade Report

 
September 10th, 2015 by Alex Carrick, Chief Economist at ConstructConnect

Article source: CMDGroup

This Economy at a Glance examines the most interesting and surprising data from the latest U.S. foreign trade report.

(1) U.S. Oil Imports: Due to the rapid emergence of a domestic hydraulic fracturing industry, plus efficiency improvements and conservation-minded consumer behavior, there is nothing like the former U.S. energy-dependency with the rest of the world.

The steep drop in the global price of oil from a year ago, combined with some extreme exchange rate fluctuations, have rendered the dollar figures on U.S. energy trade confusing.

However, ‘Exhibit 17a’, in July’s publication, released jointly by the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), presents the data in ‘barrels’.

‘Barrels’ as a volume measurement carry the same constant-valued connotation as ‘units’ for both housing starts and motor vehicle sales and ‘square footage’ for construction activity.

Year to date, through July of this year, Canada − by a considerable margin − accounted for the largest proportion of U.S. crude oil imports (41.2%). (Keep in mind that this has been without a go-ahead for the Keystone XL pipeline expansion.)
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As Fall Approaches, Key Aspects of The U.S. and Canadian Construction Outlooks

 
August 24th, 2015 by Alex Carrick, Chief Economist at ConstructConnect

Article source: CMDGroup

Yes, there are ongoing caveats concerning the U.S. economy – a disproportionate number of part-time as opposed to full-time jobs; high levels of student debt; the psychological hangover of recession-era foreclosures in the housing market; etc. Nevertheless, proof of greater strength is everywhere.

The bellwether initial jobless claims figure has been below 300,000 for 24 weeks in a row. This proxy measure for layoffs, during the week ending July 18, fell to its lowest level since 1973, when total employment was nothing like as high as it is now.

In both June and July of this year, total housing starts in America climbed above 1.2 million units (annualized) for the first time since before the recession. This was the logical result of residential building permits bettering 1.3 million units (annualized) in June.

And the almighty ‘greenback’ has become even more powerful, soaring above every other major currency, mostly by percentage changes that are in double-digits-plus.

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A Dozen Mid-August Economic Nuggets

 
August 17th, 2015 by Alex Carrick, Chief Economist at ConstructConnect

Article source: CMDGroup

Who can doubt that there’s an exchange-rate war underway? Almost all the world’s currencies have fallen to one degree or another versus the U.S. ‘greenback’. One of the few hold-outs, until recently, was China. Now, even Beijing has stepped back from parity.

The cries of alarm, though, have been overblown. If the yuan’s reduction doesn’t stray significantly from -2%, it won’t play a huge role in promoting China’s exports. To site an example from the retail sector, nobody ever holds a sale announcing that prices have been ‘slashed’ by 2%. If the slide continues and reaches -10%, that’ll be another story.

Since most commodities are priced in U.S. dollars, they will become slightly more expensive for Chinese buyers. This is another knock against owning the shares of companies engaged in supplying raw materials at this time. A deeper concern, though is what this says about the state of China’s economy. An output growth rate that was once 10% to 12% has slowed to a range of 6% to 7%. And that’s if China’s ‘official’ statistics are to be believed.

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AECCafe to exhibit at the 2015 AIA Convention and record video interviews

 
April 27th, 2015 by Sanjay Gangal

We are exhibiting at the 2015 AIA Convention in Atlanta on May 14-15 at our booth #2878 and we are recording video interviews at our booth. Let me know if you want to book a 15-minute time slot for you or someone from your firm. Interview opportunities are open to all attendees, architects, and exhibitors.

You can see past interviews here.

Come by our booth to say hello even if you don’t want to record an interview. We are doing a raffle for a KindleFire and you are most welcome to drop in your business card for a chance to win it.

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