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ConstructConnect’s -2% February Starts Almost Hold Their Ground

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

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%.
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A Dozen Mid-March Economic Nuggets

Monday, March 13th, 2017

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

Friday, February 24th, 2017

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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Canada’s Jobs Picture Improved Modestly in November

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

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

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

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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Washington Sets the Pace in Northern Atlantic Region

Thursday, July 21st, 2016

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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ConstructConnect’s Starts Continue Winning Trend in April

Monday, May 16th, 2016

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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April Jobs Reports U.S. and Canada – “Move Along, Please. Not Much Happening Here”

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

Article source: CMDGroup

 

Standing on the periphery of today’s jobs reports from the U.S. and Canada, I feel more like a cop on the beat, when confronted by bystanders at a minor altercation, than an economist.

My gut reaction is to say, “Move along, please. Not much happening here.” But I don’t want to put you off from reading the rest of this article.

In both countries, the unemployment rates stayed the same, 5.0% for America’s economy and 7.1% for Canada’s.

Month-to-month job creation in the U.S. was a decent enough 160,000, but it was below the 200,000 benchmark that gets everyone at least a little excited.

The last time the month-to-month increase in employment was as low occurred in September of last year (149,000), although January of this year wasn’t that much better (168,000).

Our expectations may have become slightly overblown, after February and March figures of +233,000 and +208,000 respectively.

2016’s monthly average gain in jobs through April, at +192,000, has now dropped by 6.3% compared with the same first four months of 2015, at +205,000.

The latest month-to-month employment increase for the services sector (+174,000) was actually greater than for the economy as whole. Therefore, goods-production must have acted as a drag on payrolls and indeed that was the case. The workforce in ‘mining and logging’ was downsized by 8,000 positions.

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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…)

Canada’s Construction Material Costs Tell Diverse Stories (Part 1 of 2)

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

Article source: CMDGroup

Similar to the U.S., the price advances of many materials and building products going into the construction process in Canada remain restrained.

The +0.3% figure year-over-year (y/y) for total construction − from line 4 of accompanying Table 1 − does, however, incorporate considerable variation at the type-of-structure sub-category level.

At this time, a sizable gain in non-residential building material costs (+3.6% y/y), plus a mid-range increase in residential costs (+2.2% y/y), are being offset by a significant decline in engineering/civil costs (-3.2% y/y).

The divergent performances result primarily from: 1) demand/supply factors driven by activity levels in each of the three main type-of-structure sub-categories; and 2) different weightings of material inputs to build houses versus office buildings versus roads and highways.

The material composition of residential construction has a large forestry component, although domestic lumber prices are also affected by housing starts south of the border.
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