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AGC's Data DIGest: March 24-28, 2014

37 states added jobs in year ending in February; population growth swings to big metros

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Seasonally adjusted construction employment increased in 37 states between February 2013 and February 2014, decreased in 10 states and the District of Columbia, and remained level in Hawaii, Maine, and South Dakota, an AGC analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data released Friday showed. The largest percentage gains were in Florida (11%, 39,200); Nevada (10.4%, 5,800 jobs); Oregon (9.8%, 7,000); Minnesota (8.1%, 7,900) and Connecticut (7.2%, 3,800). Florida also led in number of jobs added, followed by California (38,800, 6.2%) and Texas (23,700, 3.9%). Indiana lost the most construction jobs (-3,300, -2.6%), followed by New Jersey (-2,800, -2.1%) and West Virginia (-2,300, -6.5%). The steepest percentage losses over the year occurred in West Virginia; D.C. (-5.0%, -700); Montana (-2.9%, -700); Indiana; New Hampshire (-2.2%, -500); and New Jersey. For the month, 30 states added construction jobs, while 20 states and D.C. lost jobs. Wyoming added the highest percentage of new construction jobs between January and February (3.3%, 700 jobs), and California added the most jobs, by far (14,100, 2.2%). Kansas experienced the largest percentage decline for the month (-4.9%, -3,000 jobs), followed by Ohio, which shed the most construction jobs (-8,100, -4.2%). Extreme weather in January and/or February contributed to unusually large 1- and 12-month swings in many states. (BLS combines mining and logging with construction in D.C., Hawaii, South Dakota and four other states to avoid disclosing data for industries with few firms.)

The Census Bureau released July 2013 population totals for metropolitan and other substate areas on Thursday – data with significant implications for both residential and nonresidential construction. “Large metros (those with more than a million people) registered the fastest growth by far, 3.2%” from 2010 to 2013, according to an analysis by Richard Florida and Charlotta Mellander posted Friday in The Atlantic Cities blog. “This explosive growth, in large part due to their capacity to attract immigrants, is considerably better than the 2.4% growth rate for the U.S. as a whole. Medium-size metros, those with between 500,000 and a million people, grew just a bit faster than the nation as a whole, at 2.5%. Metros with between 250,000 and 500,000 people grew at slightly below the national rate, 2.3%, while metros with less than 250,000 people grew at just 1.7%. And the nation’s smallest geographic units, its 536 micropolitan areas, grew on average just 0.2%. More than half of them (286) saw their populations either decline or register no increase…Of large metros, Austin – a leading knowledge and tech hub – saw the largest percentage increase in population, growing by 9.7%. [Raleigh] grew 7.4%. Houston, San Antonio, Orlando, Denver, and Dallas each grew 6% or more. Some of the fastest growing areas of the country were in the energy belt stretching from Texas up through the Dakotas. Midland and Odessa, TX; Bismarck and Fargo, ND; and Casper, WY saw growth rates of 7% or higher. College towns like Auburn, AL; Provo, UT; Durham, NC; and Boulder, CO also registered gains at more than twice the national average. On the flip side, Rustbelt metros continue to see population stagnate or in some cases even decline slightly. Cleveland and Buffalo saw the slowest population growth of large metros, losing small numbers of people, while population virtually stagnated in Detroit, Providence, Pittsburgh, Hartford and Rochester. Pittsburgh and Cleveland saw small population losses in the more recent 2012-13 period. Once-booming Sunbelt metros, where populations exploded alongside suburban sprawl in previous decades, saw their population growth slow substantially”. Las Vegas was the fastest-growing metro in the 1990s (85%) and grew more than 40% in the 2000s but slowed to “3.9% between 2010 and 2013, placing it 75th among all metros. Phoenix, which grew by 45% in the 1990s (and where population growth topped 4% a year for nearly four decades), saw its population growth rate decline to 4.9% in 2010-13,” 49th of all metros.

“Average state personal income growth slowed to 2.6% in 2013 from 4.2% in 2012,” the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported last Tuesday. “State personal income growth ranged from 1.5% in West Virginia to 7.6% in North Dakota, with every state growing more slowly in 2013 than in 2012.” Growth in earnings (the sum of wages and salaries, supplements to wages and salaries, and proprietors’ income) slowed in most industries. “Among the few exceptions with accelerating growth, construction and farming were notable.” Construction earnings rose 8.6%, more double the 3.4% rate for all industries. Commenting on earnings by state and industry, BEA noted, “Earnings grew 1.2% in 2013 in West Virginia, the net effect of declines in 10 industries, including mining, durable goods manufacturing, and construction, and gains in 14….The construction and accommodations industries provided the largest contributions to earnings growth in Nevada “.

“For the second consecutive month, scrap steel prices decreased by $20.00/ton in early March, due to weak worldwide demand,” the New South Construction Supply e-newsletter reported last week. “Resin manufacturers announced yet another price increase for April and some manufacturers of chemicals made from oil and natural gas derivatives increased prices in March or have announced they will increase prices in April. Prices for both dimensional lumber and plywood made from southern yellow pine continued to climb since February.”

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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