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Defying Usual Seasonal Decline, CMD’s January Starts Rose 9.8%

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016

Article source: CMDGroup

CMD announced today that January’s level of U.S. construction starts, excluding residential work, was $24.7 billion, an increase of 9.8% versus December. The nearly double-digit percentage increase was noteworthy since there is usually (i.e., average over 10-years-plus) a December-to-January decline, due to seasonality, of 8.5%.

Compared with January of 2015, the latest month’s starts level was +12.9%. Relative to average non-residential starts in January over the preceding five years, 2011 to 2015, the gain was +18.6%.

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 December report was 63%; the latter’s was 37%.
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Canada’s Construction Material Costs Tell Diverse Stories (Part 2 of 2)

Friday, January 29th, 2016

Article source: CMDGroup

Following up on the subject of Canadian construction material costs, this Economy at a Glance concentrates on seven graphs.

Graph 1: Softwood lumber prices in Canada rose rapidly throughout 2012, but over the past three years, they have stayed mainly flat. The U.S.-Canada softwood lumber agreement (SLA), after being in effect for nine years, was allowed to expire in October of last year.

Participants in Canada wanted to see continuation of the SLA under the same terms as originally negotiated. The U.S. industry has been wishing for a re-calibration of provisions.

Under the SLA, quotas and/or export taxes were to be imposed on Canadian producers when prices fell below a benchmark range.  Individual provinces were allowed to choose their own form of regulation. Additional disputes were argued on several occasions before the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA).

Without the SLA, as shown by the long history of contentious wrangling prior to its 2006 implementation, there is considerable potential for legal action that will disrupt North American lumber markets. (more…)

Now it’s the Turn of U.S. Construction Material Costs

Monday, January 25th, 2016

Article source: CMDGroup

The cost of construction is largely determined by labor and material inputs.

The previous Economy at a Glance studied U.S. year-over-year average hourly wages in construction relative to all private sector jobs and other major industries.

Expanding the analysis somewhat, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in its monthly Employment Situation report, publishes four series on wage rates. Table B3 records average hourly and average weekly earnings for all employees in a range of industries. Table B8 has similar average hourly and weekly earnings information, but only for production and non-supervisory personnel.

For construction, the December 2015 year-over-year results were +2.9% (average hourly) and +4.2% (average weekly) from Table B3 and +2.7% (average hourly) and +3.3% (average weekly) from Table B8.

To summarize, the earnings results for construction ranged from +2.7% to +4.2% annually.

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U.S. Wage Gains: Construction versus other Major Industrial Sectors

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

Article source: CMDGroup

At the end of 2010, the unemployment rate in the United States was 9.3%.

Five years later, as of December 2015, the national jobless figure has been cut nearly in half, to stand at 5.0%.

There’s a common lament being heard that the tightening in U.S. labor markets has been overstated because a large bloc of potential workers has given up hunting for a job.

Furthermore, so the argument goes, whatever employment improvement has happened isn’t yet leading to better wages and salaries and the economy won’t really build up a head of steam until workers are being paid more, so they can spend more.

This Economy at a Glance will look at the percentage changes of year-over-year average hourly earnings for both production and supervisory workers in the private sector as a whole, and for major industrial sectors. Historical data can be readily downloaded from the web site of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

In the hopes of finding trend lines, the analysis in this EAAG will be limited to the past five years.

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Non-residential Construction Starts Trend Graphs – December 2015

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016

Article source: CMDGroup

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

Below are six graphs recording 12-month moving averages of CMD ’s non-residential 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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Top 10 largest construction project starts in the U.S. – December 2015

Monday, January 18th, 2016

Article source: CMDGroup

The accompanying table records the 10 largest construction project starts in the U.S. in December 2015.

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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A Baker’s Dozen Mid-January Economic Nuggets

Friday, January 15th, 2016

Article source: CMDGroup

In the early going of 2016, the headline story has been the heightened level of anxiety displayed by stock market investors. Versus 2015’s year-end closings, both the Dow Jones Industrials index and the S&P 500 are -6.0%; NASDAQ is -7.8%; and the Toronto Stock Exchange, -5.2%.

 

Compared with their most recent highs, the DJI is -10.7%; the S&P 500, -10.0%; NASDAQ, -11.8%; and the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX), -20.5%. The TSX has given its passengers a particularly bumpy ride. It has fallen into ‘bear’ territory (i.e., a decline of 20% or more.)

 

The main widely-cited reason for the sell-offs has been an expectation of weaker growth in China. There are two highly-charged ways in which such a pull-back has unfortunate repercussions for the U.S. and Canadian economies. First, the value of the yuan is being lowered, to make the price of Chinese exports more competitive in world markets.

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CMD’s December Starts Fell Slightly More than Usual Seasonal Decline

Friday, January 15th, 2016

Article source: CMDGroup

CMD announced today that December’s level of U.S. construction starts, excluding residential work, was $22.2 billion, a drop of 6.9% versus November.

CMD announced today that December’s level of U.S. construction starts, excluding residential work, was $22.2 billion, a drop of 6.9% versus November. The pull-back was only slightly more than the usual or long-term December-versus-November percentage change, due to seasonality, of -5.0%. (To note for January, weather usually has an even greater effect in that month, -8.5%.)

Compared with December of 2014, the latest month’s starts level was -7.0%; but versus the five-year average for December over the past five years (i.e., 2010 to 2014 inclusive), it was +9.2%.

Full year 2015 starts were +1.9% relative to the same January-to-December period of 2014.

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.

industry-snapshot-jan_2016 30percent
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Eight Demography Charts that Explain U.S. Construction Activity

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

Article source: CMDGroup

Talk to a demographer and he or she is likely to tell you that everything important that is happening in society and business can be explained by their practice or science.

 

As an economist, I don’t fully subscribe to such an assertion. Besides, what would I do if I didn’t have interest rates, inflation and government policy to mentally juggle as well as the study of demography?

 

But I don’t dismiss the claim out of hand either.

 

It does warrant admitting that population level, change and age-structure over time are key determinants of construction activity in several major type-of-structure categories.

 

That will be the focus of this Economy at a Glance, in two parts. The story will be told through the use of eight graphs.

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U.S. Put-in-place Construction Growth to be near 9% in 2016 and 2017 (Part 2 Comprised mainly of a Table and Graphs)

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

Article source: CMDGroup

CMD is projecting that by 2017, total annual U.S. put-in-place (PIP) construction spending will rise to $1.25 trillion. That’s versus an estimated $1.06 trillion in 2015 and a forecast $1.15 trillion in 2016.

PIP numbers, both current and historical, are provided by the Census Bureau. (For an explanation of the differences between CMD’s starts statistics and PIP figures, please see Part 1 of this Economy at a Glance.)

The total will reach that $1.25 trillion level through current (i.e., not adjusted for inflation) dollar gains of +8.6% in 2016 and +8.8% in 2017, on the heels of a +10.0% year in 2015.

Residential work, which suffered a more severe pull-back in activity than the non-residential building category, during the Great Recession, will mount a slightly faster comeback (+10.5% in each of 2016 and 2017, after +11.5% in 2015).
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