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ConstructConnect’s August Nonresidential Starts -19% M/M, But Only -2% YTD

Thursday, September 13th, 2018

Article source: ConstructConnect

ConstructConnect announced today that August’s volume of construction starts, excluding residential activity, was $33.1 billion − a month-to-month change of -18.9%. The long-term history of the starts data records a ‘normal’ change of -3.5% from July to August, due to seasonality. (Starts are traditionally strongest in Spring and early Summer.)

2018-09-12-US-Nonresidential-Construction-Starts-August-2018

Compared with August of last year, this year’s latest-month nonresidential starts volume was -9.5%.  Relative to the nonresidential five-year average for August, from 2013 through 2017, this year’s latest-month starts volume was +2.7%. Year-to-date nonresidential starts in 2018 compared with the same January-August time frame of 2017 have been -1.9%.

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 larger share of total construction than residential activity. The former’s combined proportion of total put-in-place construction in the Census Bureau’s July report was 55%; the latter’s share was 45%.


View this information as an infographic
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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., August 2018) is one month ahead of the reporting period for the investment series (i.e., July 2018.)

The all-jobs increase for the U.S. economy in August was +1.6% year over year, according to the latest Employment Situation report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Hiring by the construction sector has been more robust, +4.3% year over year. The month-to-month nominal jobs increase in construction in August was +23,000, the same as the average monthly gain since the beginning of this year. Construction hiring on average for January-August 2018 is up by one-third versus 2017’s +18,000 monthly average for the first two-thirds of 2017. Construction’s current unemployment rate is 3.4%, the same as in July, but down from 4.7% in August 2017. Construction’s jobless rate is lower than the ‘headline’ figure for the whole economy, 3.9%.
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Equity Price Patterns of 39 Companies with Ties to Construction

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018

Article source: ConstructConnect

There’s nothing complicated about today’s article. It simply examines, with the aid of the accompanying table, the latest 12-month performances of the share prices of nearly 40 well-known companies.

2018-08-21-Equity-Price-Graphic

The 39 firms have been arranged alphabetically according to their primary industrial activity. Not all sectors are represented. One obvious omission is ‘health care’. CVS and Walgreens-Boots under ‘General Retail’ will have to serve as proxies.

But there has been an attempt to capture companies with direct or indirect (i.e., through capital spending on manufacturing facilities, retail space, etc.) ties to construction.

For each company, the two right-hand, percentage-change columns compare the current share price with: (1) the latest 12-month low; and (2) the latest 12-month high.

With respect to 12-month lows, percentage changes that are 50.0% or more have been shaded lightly in gray.

With respect to 12-month highs, percentage changes that are -20.0% or more steeply negative have been shaded in red.

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12 Mid-August Economic Nuggets

Monday, August 20th, 2018

Article source: ConstructConnect

The U.S. quarter-to-quarter annualized advance in gross domestic product (GDP) in the second quarter of this year was an outsized +4.1%. It was the fastest leap forward since 2014’s third quarter jump of +4.9%. Some of the strength has been attributed to exports that were shipped early to beat target dates for the imposition of tariffs.

12 Mid-August Economic Nuggets Graphic

Nevertheless, it’s fair to say that America’s economy is presently firing smoother on more cylinders than it has in a long time. And even when problems do crop up, such as a potential Turkish currency crisis, they are – to all outward appearances − being dealt with and hustled aside quickly.

The foregoing is not to imply that there are no nagging points of concern. After all, inflation is shaking off its long slumber and preparing to possibly initiate trouble. The all-items Consumer Price Index (CPI) in July was +2.9% year over year. Even the ‘core’ rate (+2.4%), which omits volatile food and energy components, exceeded the +2.0% level favored by the Federal Reserve.

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Monitoring the Cost of 3 of Life’s Essentials: Gasoline, Rent and Coffee

Tuesday, May 29th, 2018

Article source: ConstructConnect

Aficionados of horror movies know there are certain things – e.g., the proximity of Frankenstein’s monster – that will cause ‘the villagers’ to pick up their pitchforks and charge into the woods for a confrontation. It’s widely understood that the ‘villagers’ are you and me.

Such works may be escapist fiction, but while basic safety and security will always be a primary concern in real life, there are other terrors in non-fiction that are equally likely to incite our concern and ire and they’re mainly economic – e.g., a scarcity of jobs or sky-high prices.

With respect to inflation and rapidly increasing price levels, this article looks at three products that for many people are essentials – rent, gasoline and coffee.

Charts 1 through 6 show the year-over-year percentage changes of the rent, gasoline and coffee sub-indices within the broader Consumer Price Index (CPI) data produced by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and Statistics Canada.

In the U.S., media headlines immediately prior to Memorial Day Weekend carried the message that travelers taking to the roads were about to discover that a fill-up at the gas pump would cost them nearly one-third more than a year ago.

The stronger U.S. economy has been contributing to more demand for gasoline. According to the website, www.gasbuddy.com/charts, the average price of gasoline in America is now $3.00 USD per gallon. Last year at the same time, it was $2.40. The increase has been +25%.

Rent Prices USA
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ConstructConnect’s April Starts +14%, A Bit Better than Usual Seasonal Uptick

Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

Article source: ConstructConnect

ConstructConnect announced today that April’s volume of construction starts, excluding residential activity, was $42.5 billion. The latest month-to-month change was +14.3%. Moving from March to April usually accounts for the biggest gain due to seasonality. The long-term average increase in starts between the third and fourth months of the year has been +12.0%.

2018-05-14-US-Nonresidential-Construction-Starts-April-2018

April of this year versus the same month of last year was -5.0%. April of this year versus the five-year average for April, from 2013 through 2017, however, was a much better +28.8%.

April 2018’s year-to-date performance was -15%. Still, that was an improvement over March’s first-reported pull-back of -22%. The year-to-date percentage changes early in 2018 are being held down by Q1 2017’s exceptional strength in starts. This effect will gradually dissipate.

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.


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15 Eye-Catching Charts that Highlight Trends in Canada and U.S. Jobs (Part 3)

Friday, May 13th, 2016

Article source: ConstructConnect

In Part 3 of this Economy at a Glance, we’ll conclude our examination of how certain key sectors of the Canadian and U.S. economies are performing, as captured by the slopes of their jobs graphs.

As stated in Part 1, whether or not employment is on the upswing can give a pretty good indication of which way firms in a particular sector are leaning in terms of investment spending (which may be limited to machinery and equipment) or construction projects.

The underlying data for the U.S. and Canada comes from surveys of employers. A significant point of difference is that the U.S. numbers are seasonally adjusted, while for Canada, they are moving 12-month averages of not seasonally adjusted (NSA) figures, placed in the latest month.

Some of the charts in Parts 1 and 2 grabbed one by the neck-tie and demanded that attention be paid. In Part 3, while subdued by comparison, they still offer much that is informative.

Canada Elementary and Secondary Schools (Graph 11): Demographics as a driver of elementary and secondary school attendance, and by extension new construction, is currently quite positive. The number of children in the relevant age cohort from 4 to 17, after declining from 2000 to the present, is now set to begin increasing again in fairly dramatic fashion, out to at least the mid-2030s.

Canada Community Colleges (Graph 12): The ‘community college’ category includes Quebec’s C.E.G.E.P.s (Collèges d’enseignement general et professionnel). Employment in colleges in Canada has flattened since the mid-point of 2010. Due to the fact the age-specific demographic drivers for colleges are mostly the same as for universities, both will be covered in the next section.

Canada Universities (Graph 13): Take what was said for elementary and secondary schools and turn it upside down. The primary age-relevant cohort for college and university enrolments is 18 to 26. While the population count for that faction in society has risen steadily during the 16 years since the start of the new millennium to the present, a tumble will be occurring from this point in time moving forward until about the middle of the 2020s.

Employment in universities has been exhibiting a gentler upward slope in the latest two-and-a-half years. The best hope for this branch of academia may reside in older adults and retired seniors returning to classrooms for re-training, skills upgrades and the general thrill of the learning experience. The latter may lead to a second degree in a beloved subject that was put on the back burner during the raise-a-family and bring-home-the-bacon years.

Canada Hospitals (Graph 14): In the U.S., employment in hospitals has followed a bumpy pathway since the introduction of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010. Not so in Canada, which has a long history of universal health care.

As Graph 14 so ably illustrates, there’s been nary a setback in the upward progression of the jobs level at Canada’s hospitals over the past dozen or so years. Not even during the Great Recession.

And now the federal government is planning a big boost to spending on socially- and ecologically-conscious infrastructure projects over the next 10 years. Hospital boards will be rejoicing and hospital workers will see their ranks swell.

U.S. Temporary Help Services (Graph 15):  For three to four years following the 2008-2009 ‘Big Dip’ in the U.S. economy, the stirrings of employment re-birth were most apparent in the ‘temporary help services’ sub-sector jobs category. Graph 15 highlights how steeply inclined the curve was in 2010 through 2012.

The logic flows easily. Employers, shaken by the severity of the preceding precipitous plunge and worried that the recovery might not last, were quick to hire part-time workers to satisfy any increases in orders for goods or services that might come their way.

As the improving business conditions became more prolonged, this stop-gap measure ran its course and was replaced with hiring policies more favorable towards full-time positions.

Now, with the unemployment rate at only 5.0%, the need to make job offerings attractive (i.e., through benefits, pensions, etc.) has become essential.

Still, there are analysts who point to the apparent flattening, of late, in the ‘temporary help services’ curve as conveying a forewarning of harsher times pending, perhaps leading to the onset of a new recession.

The argument is as follows. Some employers are beginning to experience more challenging business conditions once again and their response has been to dismiss part-time staff. From an administrative standpoint, and perhaps even an emotional one, such a course of action is a lot easier than downsizing supposedly permanent workers.

The foregoing seems to be a lot of weight to attach to a relatively small correction in the graph.

But if one believes in being ever-vigilant, then it’s a theory worth tagging and remembering.

By No Means is it the Same Old World (Part 3)

Monday, May 9th, 2016

Article source: CMDGroup

Parts 1 and 2 of this Economy at a Glance carried us past the halfway point of our extended jaunt through the major changes underway in society today.

It’s time to wrap up with economy- and, indeed, life-altering transitions (8) through (12).

(8) Logistics rule: One could be forgiven for thinking that better logistics is the holy grail of aspirations.

The best strategizing generals have always known that wars aren’t necessarily won by valor or military skill.

Nor even by a single decisive victory.

To arrive at such a desirable outcome, the winning side must first have good logistics – i.e., effective means to supply warriors and machines with food and fuel. These are the secure supply lines that are so touted in military jargon.

Otherwise, you’ll find yourself retreating from Moscow, à la Napoleon Bonaparte, subsequent to a fades-too-quickly glorious success at the battle of Borodino.

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By No Means is it the Same Old World (Part 2)

Thursday, May 5th, 2016

Article source: CMDGroup

Part 1 of this Economy at a Glance introduced the topic of a dozen major ways in which the structure of society and the framework of the global economy are changing beyond what humankind has ever experienced before.

In Part 2, let’s dive right in with transition number (4), which will then lead organically into (5) and beyond.

(4) Rock star central bankers: Given that establishment politicians have been passing out of favor, maybe it’s just as well that central bank Chairmen and Governors have stepped into the spotlight.

Changes to taxation, spending and other fiscal tools to guide the economy have fallen out of favor and almost the whole responsibility for managing output, employment and other prosperity  indicators has fallen on each nation’s central bank.

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By No Means is it the Same Old World (Part 1)

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

Article source: CMDGroup

I’m writing this article on May 1, but it’s not an April Fools’ joke. Sure, there have been other times in world history, during war or plague, when turmoil has been so intense as to test, to the limits and beyond, the fortitude of mankind and womankind.

Still, I’m not sure humanity has ever before been on the cusp of so many changes that are already, or are on the verge of, shaking up the ways in which we live and interact with one another; and govern our economic and social affairs; and inspire dreams about really and truly astonishing futures.

The notion for writing this article first came to mind on account of six or so major trends that I’m always mulling over when I write about the economy and the construction sector. Upon deeper reflection, the number of discernible seismic shifts quickly expanded to a dozen.

There may well be more. Feel free to contact me if you believe I’ve failed to mention something equally or more important.

The following 12 sections have also been inspired by the question I’m always asking myself and which I know is of prime concern to you as well. What will be the implications for the construction sector?
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