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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.


View this information as an infographic
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An Eye-Popping 3.9% Unemployment Rate in April’s U.S. Jobs Report

Friday, May 4th, 2018

Article source: ConstructConnect

April’s Employment Situation report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) highlights a month-to-month increase in total U.S. jobs of +164,000. But that figure understates the employment improvement, since March’s level was revised upwards by +30,000.

U.S. April Jobs Report Graphic

Therefore, the accumulated gain in April was +194,000 jobs.

The average monthly increase in total U.S. employment through the first one-third of this year has been +200,000. In 2017, during the same January-to-April time frame, the average monthly climb was +117,000. The year-over-year increase in the monthly average is +13.0%.

The number that really pops out from the latest data release on the U.S. labor market, however, is the unemployment rate. Prior to April, it had been sitting at 4.1% for six months in a row.

In April, it finally dropped below 4.0% to stand at 3.9%. A 3.9% jobless figure is the lowest since December 2000, almost two decades ago.

Furthermore, there is another measure of the unemployment rate calculated by the BLS that is broader in scope and habitually higher. Its official title is U-6 and it includes individuals only marginally attached to the labor force, plus those who are engaged part-time but would prefer to be occupied full-time.

 

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Ranking and Reviewing America’s Top Dozen Exporting States

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018

Article source: ConstructConnect

This article provides a ranking of America’s Top Dozen States according to their goods export volumes in full year 2017.

Total U.S. goods exports last year amounted to almost one-and-a-half trillion dollars.

Ranking and Reviewing America’s Top Dozen Exporting States Graphic

The background foreign trade data comes from the Census Bureau’s web-based site entitled USA Trade Online. While it’s relatively easy to open a free account, if one is not familiar with ‘pivot tables’, there is a bit of a learning curve to access the statistics.

The type-of-product designations follow the definitions in the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS).

(1) Texas:

Texas, with export shipments of $264.1 billion and a 17.9% share of the nation’s total, was the leader among U.S. states for foreign sales in 2017. The NAICS category at the top of the Lone Star State’s exports list was ‘computer and electronic products’ ($47.0 billion), but close behind were ‘petroleum and coal products’ ($44.0 billion), ‘chemicals’ ($40.0 billion) and ‘oil and gas’ ($32.0). ‘Chemicals’ exports were dominated by synthetic rubber.

While Texas has a high level of computer-product exports, it would be more accurate to say that the State is especially strong in energy-product export sales. Energy products as a catch-all would combine refined petroleum (e.g., gasoline), chemicals, crude oil and natural gas for more than $100 billion.

In 2017, there were substantial increases in oil exports from Texas to China, Canada and South Korea. Other major customers for Texas crude last year were Mexico and Brazil.

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Spring 2018 Put-in-place Construction Forecasts for Canada

Tuesday, March 27th, 2018

Article source: ConstructConnect

The historical records of Canada’s put-in-place capital spending numbers for residential, commercial, industrial, institutional and engineering construction are to be found in Statistics Canada’s on-line Cansim Tables 026-0013, 026-0016 and 029-0045.

Whereas construction ‘starts’ numbers are lump-sum figures entered at the time of groundbreaking, the ‘put-in-place’ data series are meant to mirror progress payments as projects proceed.

2018 03 26 Canada put in place construction forecasts Graphic

The history i n those previously mentioned Cansim Tables, however, currently stops at 2017. But there is another source for 2018 estimates – the non-residential Capital and Repair Expenditures (CARE) survey.

There’s a problem, though. The 2018 data from CARE is set out according to capital spending by industrial sectors. These is no re-arrangement of those amounts according to the five type-of-structure categories.

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ConstructConnect’s February 2018 Starts -8.4% Versus Prior Five-Year Average

Monday, March 19th, 2018

Article source: ConstructConnect

ConstructConnect announced today that February’s volume of construction starts, excluding residential activity, was $23.6 billion. The latest month-to-month change in the volume of starts, at -24.3%, was more than the usual mild drop from January to February due to seasonality.

2018-03-19-US-Nonresidential-Construction-Starts-February-2018

February of this year relative to February of last year was -35.5%. The level of starts in February 2017, however, was unusually high, $36.6 billion. Comparing February of this year with the average for February in the preceding five years (2013 to 2017), the change was -8.4%. February of this year versus the average for the four years 2013 to 2016 (i.e., omitting 2017) was +2.4%.

Year-to-date nonresidential starts in 2018 have been -26.4% versus January-February of 2017. The first-two-months of this year versus the comparable period in 2016 was a less severe slide of -3.2%.

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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‘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 January report was 60%; the latter’s share was 40%.

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., February 2018) is one month ahead of the reporting period for the investment series (i.e., January 2018.)

Over the past four months, jobs growth in construction has been surging. From November 2017 through January 2018, the month-to-month employment pickups were +42,000, +42,000 and +40,000 respectively. February’s result was a further quickening of the pace, +61,000. The combined four-month gain in construction hiring has been +185,000 jobs. The last time there was such a substantial four-month increase was from January to April 2006, +193,000. In 2006, though, there was a homebuilding boom, fueled by subprime mortgages, that turned into a bust.

Total construction employment is still half a million jobs below its prior peak in 2007, before the onset of the Great Recession. That gap will likely be eliminated quickly. According to the latest Employment Situation report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the U.S. construction sector is generating jobs at a year-over-year rate (+3.7%) that is more than twice as fast as for all workers in the economy (+1.6%). The unemployment rate in the sector in the latest February was 7.8%. Twelve months ago, it had been 8.8%. The jobless figure is traditionally worse in winter.

The Employment Situation report also includes jobs results for three other sectors with close ties to construction. Employment with ‘real estate’ offices in February was +1.7% year over year; with ‘building material and garden supply stores’, +3.9%; and with ‘architectural and engineering services’ firms, +3.3%. Since designers must provide assembly instructions before projects can proceed, their +3.3% staffing increase suggests ongoing healthy construction activity.
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Construction Material Costs – Latest PPI, IPPI and RMPI Results, U.S. and Canada

Friday, March 2nd, 2018

Article source: ConstructConnect

When assessing building material cost changes, the primary source for the U.S. is the Producer Price Index (PPI) data series calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). (The BLS is also responsible for the Consumer Price Index.)

2017-05-05-US-Canada-PPI-Graphic

For Canada, one turns to the Industrial Product Price Index (IPPI) and Raw Materials Price Index (RMPI) data series from Statistics Canada.

While the history of the latest PPI numbers (Table 1) extends to January 2018, the IPPI and RMPI figures (Table 2) are currently available only through December 2017.

The PPI results include specific findings for ‘final demand construction’ (i.e., overall construction) as well as private capital versus government investment, plus five specific type-of-structure sub-categories.

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Ten Mid-February Economic Nuggets – With a Focus on Inflation Fears

Thursday, March 1st, 2018

Article source: ConstructConnect

At the beginning of February, there was a great deal of volatility in the U.S. major stock market indices. They fell into ‘correction’ territory, which in ‘market-talk’ means they dropped by 10% from their peaks, before steadying and heading cautiously upwards again.

Ten Mid-February Economic Nuggets Graphic

Some of the initial downward movement was due to profit-taking, on the heels of years of exceptional equity price gains. As the retreat grew more severe, however, it became harder to explain, especially since the recently passed tax cuts will provide an extra boost to corporate bottom lines.

A consensus explanation gradually emerged and it goes as follows. Yes, the economy is growing rapidly and job creation is outstanding. But maybe output growth and labor market conditions are too good. The level of unemployment has dropped near a historical low. Can wage restraint hold? Furthermore, there is a synchronous world expansion underway and commodities demand is heating up. Prices for key raw materials are climbing once again.

All these developments have the potential to light a fire under inflation. And if inflation is on the rise, the Federal Reserve may feel the need to initiate ‘cooling’ interest rate hikes faster than earlier anticipated. Some economic forecasting firms are already projecting there will be four, not three, interest rate increases this year.

Therefore, perhaps the hottest topic for discussion throughout 2018 will be how inflation is performing. Specifically, is the ‘Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U)’ busting free from its +2.0% (year over year) bondage and raising more havoc?

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U.S. Put-in-Place Construction Spending Forecasts – Heading Into Winter 2017

Wednesday, December 13th, 2017

Article source: ConstructConnect

ConstructConnect is known for its ‘starts’ statistics and forecasts. Twice per year, however, − in early summer and late fall − ConstructConnect also calculates and publishes ‘put-in-place’ construction spending projections.

2017-12-04-US-Economy-Put-in-Place-Graphic

It helps that the ‘starts’ numbers are leading indicators for the PIP figures.

The history of PIP capital spending is compiled and published by the Census Bureau. A thorough explanation of the differences between ‘starts’ and ‘put-in-place’ is provided at the end of this article.

ConstructConnect is now estimating that ‘grand total’ U.S. put-in-place construction spending in 2017, expressed in ‘current’-dollar terms (i.e., not adjusted for inflation), will be $1.233 trillion.
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Stock Market Prices Playing Sidekick Role in a ‘Buddy Movie’

Monday, November 13th, 2017

Article source: ConstructConnect

As shown in Graphs 1, 2 and 3, the most widely known and discussed U.S. stock market indices – Dow Jones Industrial (DJI), S&P 500 and NASDAQ – all set new record highs in July.

On a year-over-year basis, the DJI at the close of last month was +18.8%; the S&P 500 was +13.6%; and NASDAQ especially stood out with a gain of +23.0%.

Just as remarkable have been the improvements in those three indices relative to their prior peaks.

Since its previous summit in October 2007 (13,930), the DJI is +57.2%.

Since October 2007 (1,549), the S&P 500 is +59.5%.

Also since October 2007 (2,859), when it managed a mini-peak, NASDAQ is presently +122.0%. NASDAQ is even up substantially (+35.2%) relative to its ‘Mt. Everest’ of peaks in February 2000 (4,696), when the ‘dot.com boom’ was in full swing.

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Ranking the Economic Performance of Canada’s Provinces – Heat Graph

Monday, November 6th, 2017

Article source: ConstructConnect

Chart 1 of this article sets out, for each of Canada’s provinces, the most recent year-over-year growth rates for seven demographic and economic variables – population, housing starts, total jobs, hourly earnings, weekly earnings, retail sales and export sales.

An eighth measure is also included, the unemployment rate, but it is a ‘level’ rather than a growth rate.

To compare how the provinces are doing relative to each other, Chart 2 rearranges the results from Chart 1 in a ‘heat’ graphic. The methodology is as follows.

In each column of Chart 1, when the percent change number is equal to or higher than the Canada-wide figure, the relevant ‘cell’ is highlighted in yellow (for ‘warm’).

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