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AGC Data DIGest: April 10-14, 2023

PPI for inputs slips in March despite numerous increases; RLB finds wide range in costs by metro

The producer price index (PPI) for material and service inputs to new nonresidential construction edged down 0.1% in March and 1.1% year-over-year (y/y), according to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data posted on Thursday. The downturn was driven by a 2.3% drop in energy inputs, while the index for goods other than energy and foods climbed 0.5%. The index for services declined 1.0%. Price patterns for key construction inputs varied widely in March. Price changes for the month ranged from increases of 2.1% for liquid asphalt and 1.2% for steel mill products to a decrease of 7.0% for diesel fuel. Despite the recent moderation, many inputs continued to post double-digit y/y cost increases: cement, 17.0%; concrete products and architectural coatings, 14.5% each; asphalt paving mixtures and blocks, 14.1%; gypsum building materials and construction machinery and equipment, 11.8% each; flat glass, 10.6%; and insulation materials, 10.5%. The PPI for new nonresidential building construction—a measure of the price that contractors say they would bid to build a fixed set of buildings—rose 0.2% for the month and 16.5% y/y. PPIs for new, repair, and maintenance work by subcontractors all rose: roofing contractors (0.2% for the month and 19.5% y/y), electrical contractors (0.1% and 18.8%, respectively); plumbing contractors (0.8% and 12.5%); and concrete contractors (0.1% and 8.0%). AGC posted tables of construction PPIs. Readers are invited to send information on price and supply-chain changes to ken.simonson@agc.org.

From January 2022 to January 2023, “the national average increase in construction cost was 8.1%,” consultancy Rider Levett Bucknall reported on Tuesday, based on its research. Among 12 metro areas studied, increases ranged from 5.1% (Honolulu) to 11.2% (Chicago). From October to January, increases ranged from 0.8% (Chicago) to 2.0% (Boston).

There were 66,220 women-owned construction business in 2020, the Census Bureau posted on April 4. There were 164,377 women or 3.0% of the 5.49 million total full-time, year-round employees in construction and extraction occupations in 2021, according to American Community Survey (ACS) data Census posted on April 5. (Employment by occupation includes workers in any public or private-sector industry.) Median earnings for women in these occupations averaged $39,846 or 84.5% of the $47,149 median for men. (Half of workers earn the median amount or more; half earn the median amount or less.) Of six construction occupations for which Census posted women’s earnings percentages, the highest was among construction and building inspectors (95.7% of men’s earnings), followed by carpenters (92.5%). Hazardous-materials removal workers had the highest percentage of women employees (26.8%) among 30 construction occupations for which employee counts were listed. There 62,304 women or 7.6% of the 818,830 construction managers. Median earnings for women construction managers amounted to $73,412, 91.3% of men’s median earnings of $80,373.

Immigrants make [up] one in four construction workers,” the National Association of Home Builders reported on April 6, based on its analysis of 2021 ACS data. “The share is significantly higher, reaching 30%, among construction tradesmen. In some states, reliance on foreign-born labor is even more pronounced with immigrants comprising close to 40% of the construction workforce in California and Texas.”

BLS economist Andrew Mattingly documented the impact of population growth on construction employment in “Do you want to work where the people are? These jobs are most common in areas with high (or low) population growth,” posted on Monday. The article finds that construction and extraction occupations averaged 4.5% of total employment in May 2021 among seven large metro areas with high 2010-2020 population growth rates, compared to 3.3% among seven areas with low or negative growth rates. Construction and extraction shares ranged from 5.3% of total payroll employment in Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land to 2.8% in Cleveland-Elyria. Ohio. Pittsburgh (4.6% share) was the only slow-growth area to exceed the national average share (4.2%).

Highway contractors are invited to complete AGC’s annual highway work zone safety survey by May 12. Responses will be kept confidential. AGC will use the information from this survey as the main focus of a media and public education campaign we will launch the week before Memorial Day and the traditional start of the summer driving season. Our goal is to educate and encourage drivers to operate more safely in highway work zones.

Chief economists Ken Simonson, AGC; Kermit Baker, American Institute of Architects; and Alex Carrick, ConstructConnect will present their views on the construction and design outlook in a webinar on May 9, 2-3:30 pm ET.