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AGC Data DIGest: August 7-18, 2023

Employment rises in 45 states in latest 12 months; July producer prices moderate; Dodge starts leap

Seasonally adjusted construction employment rose from July 2022 to July 2023 in 45 states and the District of Columbia, fell in four states, and was unchanged in Vermont, according to AGC’s analysis of data the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) posted today. Texas added the most construction jobs (25,200 jobs, 3.2%), followed by California (13,800, 1.5%). Arkansas had the largest percentage gain (10.1%, 5,800 jobs), followed by Wyoming (7.6%, 1,600 jobs). Colorado lost the most jobs (-3,000, -1.6%), followed by Missouri (-1,200, -0.9%). The largest percentage loss, -1.6%, was in Colorado and North Dakota (-400 jobs). Construction employment rose in July in 27 states and D.C., fell in 22 states, and was flat in New Mexico. Texas added the most jobs (4,700, 0.6%), followed by Florida (4,000, 0.7%). Nebraska had the largest percentage gain (3.1%, 1,900 jobs), followed by Alaska (2.5%, 400 jobs). Washington lost the most construction jobs in July (-2,500 jobs, -1.0%), followed by Pennsylvania (-1,000, -0.4%), Louisiana (-1,000, -0.7%) and Maine (-900, -2.7%). Maine had the largest percentage loss, followed by Washington. (For D.C., Delaware, and Hawaii, which have few mining or logging jobs, BLS posts combined totals with construction; AGC treats the changes as all from construction.)

The producer price index (PPI) for new nonresidential building construction—a measure of the price that contractors say they would bid to build a fixed set of buildings—declined 1.4% for the month and rose 3.8% year-over-year (y/y), according to BLS data posted on August 11. AGC posted tables of construction PPIs. The y/y increase was the least since June 2021 and a steep deceleration from the 11% y/y rise in June. Changes in PPIs for new, repair, and maintenance work by subcontractors were mixed: roofing contractors (0.2% for the month and 12.2% y/y), plumbing contractors (0.2% and 6.5%, respectively), electrical contractors (-0.2% and 4.5%), and concrete contractors (-2.7% and -1.2%). The PPI for material and service inputs to new nonresidential construction rose 0.2% from June to July but decreased 2.3% y/y. Fuel and metals prices logged especially sharp monthly and y/y declines. The index for diesel fuel tumbled 8.4% in June and 45% y/y; steel mill products, -7.6% and -21%; and aluminum mill shapes, -1.4% and -7.8%. In addition, the PPI for lumber and plywood rose 1.6% for the month but fell 17% y/y, while the index for truck transportation of freight fell 0.2% and 12%, respectively. In contrast, the PPI for cement jumped 1.7% and 12.6%. Readers are invited to send information on price and supply-chain changes to ken.simonson@agc.org.

Total construction starts in current dollars jumped 17% from June to July, Dodge Construction Network reported on Wednesday. “Nonbuilding starts drove the increase, rising 38%, due to the start of a singular large LNG facility. Residential starts rose 20%, while nonresidential building starts lost 6%. Year-to-date through July 2023, total construction starts were 7% below that of 2022. Residential and nonresidential starts were down 21% and 7% respectively; however, nonbuilding starts were up 20% on a year-to-date basis.”

Housing starts (units) in July increased 3.9% from June and 5.9% y/y at a seasonally adjusted annual rate, the Census Bureau reported on Wednesday. Single-family starts rose 6.7% and 9.5%, respectively. Multifamily (five or more units) starts were unchanged from June and up 0.4% y/y. Residential permits rose 0.1% for the month but fell 13% y/y. Single-family permits rose for the sixth-straight month, by 0.6% from June, 1.3% y/y, and 24% since bottoming out in January. Multifamily permits dipped 0.2% from June to an annual rate of 464,000, down 32% y/y and the lowest rate since October 2020. There were 986,000 multifamily units under construction—the most in the 54-year history of the series. 

“Confidence in the market for new multifamily housing was in positive territory for the second quarter” (Q2), the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reported on Thursday, based on its quarterly survey. “The survey asks multifamily builders to rate the current conditions as ‘good,’ ‘fair,’ or ‘poor’ for multifamily starts in markets where they are active. [A reading] above 50 indicates that more respondents report conditions are good than report conditions are poor.” Q2 readings were 64 for garden/low-rise units, 47 for mid/high-rise units, 55 for subsidized units, and 45 for built-for-sale units.

“The average length of time to complete construction of a multifamily building, after obtaining authorization, was 19.8 months,” according to Census’s 2022 Survey of Construction, NAHB reported on August 7. “The permit-to-completion time in 2022 was 2.3 months longer than in 2021, as supply-chain issues and the ongoing skilled labor shortage challenged the industry.” Completion time has risen for nine years in a row from a low of 12.0 months in 2013.

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