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AGC's Data DIGest: March 18 - March 22, 2013

States, metros split between construction job gains, losses; starts jump from a year ago

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Click here to view January state and metro data.

New state and local construction employment data show an even split between growth and decline from January 2012 to January 2013, according to analyses of Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that AGC released this week. BLS reported today that 306 metropolitan areas had year-over-year increases in nonfarm payroll employment, 57 had decreases and nine had no change. AGC reported that of the 339 metro areas (including divisions of larger metros) for which BLS reports construction employment, 145 had increases, 141 had decreases and 53 were stagnant. (BLS combines mining and logging with construction in six states, the District of Columbia and most metros to avoid disclosing data about industries with few employees. State data is seasonally adjusted; metro data is not and, therefore, year-to-year comparisons are more meaningful than month-to-month for metros.) Pascagoula, Miss. added the highest percentage of new construction jobs (45%, 1,500 combined jobs), followed by Brownsville-Harlingen, Texas (19%, 600 combined jobs) and Cheyenne, Wyo. (19%, 500 combined jobs). The Dallas-Plano-Irving division added the most jobs (10,100 combined jobs, 10%), followed by the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale division (9,600 construction jobs, 9%) and Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown (8,700 construction jobs, 5%). The largest job losses were in the Chicago-Joliet-Naperville division (-3,500 construction jobs, -3%) and the Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn division (-3,500 combined jobs, -19%); followed by the Northern Virginia division (-3,200 combined jobs, -5%); and Charleston, W.V. (-2,900 combined jobs, -20%). Charleston lost the highest percentage, followed by Atlantic City-Hammonton, N.J. (-19%, -1,000 combined jobs) and Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn. 

In January, seasonally adjusted nonfarm payroll employment increased from a year earlier in 48 states and D.C. and dipped by an insignificant 200 jobs each (less than 0.05%) in Maine and West Virginia, BLS reported on Monday. Seasonally adjusted construction employment climbed in 24 states and D.C., fell in 25 and was unchanged in Wisconsin. D.C. had the largest percentage increase (9.4%, 1,200 combined jobs); followed by North Dakota (9.0%, 2,500 construction jobs) and Hawaii (8.0%, 2,300 combined jobs). Texas (28,500 construction jobs, 5.0%) added the most new construction jobs over the past 12 months, followed by California (17,600 jobs, 3.0%). Arkansas lost the highest percentage (-10.5%, -5,100 construction jobs), followed by Rhode Island (-8.0%, -1,300 construction jobs) and Montana (-7.2%, -1,700 construction jobs). Illinois lost the most jobs (-9,800 construction jobs, -5.0%); followed by Virginia (-7,500 construction jobs, -4.2%). 

New construction starts in February were lower than in January but totals for the first two months were higher than in the same period of 2012, according to McGraw-Hill Construction (MHC) and Reed Construction Data, based on data they separately collected. The value of starts at a seasonally adjusted annual rate fell 7% from January, MHC reported today. “The loss of momentum was present in two of construction’s three main sectors—nonresidential building [-6%] and nonbuilding construction (public works and electric utilities) [-32%]. Meanwhile, the housing sector in February continued to strengthen [+11%]. For the first two months of 2013, total construction starts on an unadjusted basis [were] up 5% from the same period a year ago. ‘Over the past year, the construction industry has shown signs of renewed expansion, but diminished activity in January and February indicates that the upward trend remains hesitant,’ stated Robert A. Murray, vice president of economic affairs….right now only housing is strengthening in a sustained manner. For nonresidential building, the commercial structure types are showing improvement, but the institutional side of the market is still being restrained by tight state and local budgets. For nonbuilding construction, the public works categories are dealing with flat-to-reduced funding support from the federal government, and new electric utility starts are in the process of pulling back from the record pace reported last year.’” Reed, which does not seasonally adjust its data or tally residential starts, reported on Monday that year-to-date starts for the first two months of 2013 were 19% higher than a year ago. Commercial starts were up 11% year-to-date; industrial (manufacturing) starts, +79%; institutional, +16%; and heavy engineering, +27%. 

Housing starts increased 0.8% at a seasonally adjusted annual rate in February from January and 28% from February 2012 to the highest level since 2008, the Census Bureau reported on Tuesday. Multi-unit (5 or more units) starts rose 0.7% and 19%, respectively. Single-unit starts increased 0.5% and 31%. Building permits, a reliable indicator of near-term future starts, especially single-family, jumped 4.6% and 34% in total; 7.5% and 55% for multi-unit; and 3% and 26% for single-unit. 

“Growing demand and tight supplies have pushed up plywood prices by 45% in the past year, and U.S. producers are scrambling to get back up to speed after slashing output…during the housing bust,” the Wall Street Journal reported today. “Georgia-Pacific, the largest U.S. producer of plywood, is expected to announce Friday it plans to invest about $400 million over the next three years to boost softwood plywood and lumber capacity by 20%.” 

The Data DIGest is a weekly summary of economic news; items most relevant to construction are in italics. All rights reserved. Sign up at www.agc.org/datadigest.


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