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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.


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.

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.

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.


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

U.S. and Canada December Jobs Reports Should Quell Some Jitters

Friday, January 8th, 2016

Article source: CMDGroup

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the U.S. economy recorded its second-best month for jobs-growth last year in December, +292,000. Only October’s +307,000 was better.


2015 ended with a gain (+292,000) that was considerably above the monthly average for the year as a whole (+221,000). There is speculation by some analysts that December’s strong result may have been aided by weather that was unseasonably warm.


The final tally of the total number of jobs in America at year-end 2015 was ahead by 2.65 million compared with 2014. One big story has been the shift in the composition of those jobs. According the ‘household survey’ of employment, all of the grand-total increase came in full-time work. The total number of part-time jobs contracted slightly.


Earlier, after the Great Recession, concern was often expressed that while the jobs picture was improving, too often the work being offered was of the poorer quality, lower-paying and less-stable part-time variety. This dilemma appears to have self-corrected in the latest 12 months.


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.


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).

U.S. Put-in-place Construction Growth to be near 9% in 2016 and 2017 (Parts 1)

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

Article source: CMDGroup

The focus for CMD’s construction statistics, both in the U.S. and Canada, is on actual and forecast levels of starts.

There is another data set supplied by government agencies – i.e., the Census Bureau and Statistics Canada − known as the put-in-place (PIP) investment spending series.

For ‘starts’, the total value of a project is entered in the month when, according to a best estimate, ground is broken. The starts are often referred to as ‘lumpy’, since the largest projects play outsized roles.

Starts totals are built-up from the summation of all individual projects that are in the data base.

Conceptually, the PIP data set differs in that it simulates progress payments as projects proceed.

For example, while PIP numbers are actually based on owners’ and others’ estimates of capital  spending across a total universe of construction activity, a $60 billion office building beginning in July of this year will be theoretically captured (approximately) as $20 billion appearing in 2015; $30 billion in 2016; and the final $10 billion in 2017.

State and Province Rankings by Year-to-date Engineering/Civil Starts

Monday, December 21st, 2015

Article source: CMDGroup

In the previous Economy at a Glance, there was an examination of states and provinces according to their January-to-November 2015 dollar volumes and year-to-date percentage changes of non-residential building construction starts.

The data source is CMD’s web-accessible ‘Insight’ research material.

This time, we’ll look at starts that are heavy engineering/civil in nature. Again, Canadian provinces will be mixed in with U.S. states.

Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have been condensed into an ‘Atlantic Canada’ designation.

In the engineering construction category, however, those easternmost provinces should not be lightly dismissed.

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