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AGC Data DIGest: May 20-26, 2022

Construction employment in April tops pre-pandemic mark in 32 states; some costs, supplies improve

Seasonally adjusted construction employment in April topped the February 2020 level in 32 states, lagged in 17 states and the District of Columbia, and was flat in Alaska, according to AGC’s analysis of BLS data posted on Friday. (February 2020 was the month in which employment peaked nationally before plunging during widespread shutdowns in April and April 2020.) Utah added the most construction jobs since February 2020 (16,300 jobs, 14.3%), followed by Florida (15,500, 2.7%) and Tennessee (13,200, 10.0%). Utah had the largest percentage gain, followed by Montana (13.3%, 4,100 jobs) and South Dakota (12.5%, 3,000 jobs). New York shed the most construction jobs over 26 months (-27,700 jobs, -6.8%), followed by Pennsylvania (-15,600, -5.8%) and Texas (-10,800, -1.4%). The largest percentage losses were in New York, Kentucky (-6.2%, -5,000 jobs), and Pennsylvania. For the month, 27 states and D.C. added construction jobs, 21 states lost jobs, and there was no change in Alaska and Rhode Island. Florida added the most construction jobs (4,300 jobs, 0.7%), followed by Texas (3,600, 0.5%) and Ohio (3,300, 1.4%). Delaware had the largest percentage gain (2.1%, 500 jobs), followed by South Dakota (1.5%, 400 jobs), Ohio and Montana (1.4%, 500 jobs). California lost the most construction jobs last month (-13,200 jobs, -1.4%), followed by North Carolina (-5,900, -2.4%) and New Jersey (-2,600, -1.6%). Arkansas had the largest percentage loss (-2.7%, -1,500 jobs), followed by North Carolina and Kentucky (-2.1%, -1,600 jobs). (BLS reports combined totals for mining, logging, and construction in D.C., Delaware, and Hawaii. Because there are few, if any, mining or logging jobs in these locations, AGC treats the levels and changes as solely construction employment).

Materials prices and availability have been mixed recently. New South Construction News reported today, “Rebar demand remains strong through May, and the [$40 per ton] increase on 20’ stock bar in April is holding firm for now. Mills are reporting all May rollings are booked and much of the rollings scheduled for June are also booking up quickly. With demand high, availability remains an issue and is allowing the domestic mills to stick with the elevated pricing. The opportunity for the market to soften has everything to do with the reemergence of import offerings and falling scrap metal pricing….Wire mesh pricing remains flat from April. The availability of wire mesh has begun to improve, with lead times being quoted in weeks instead of months….Lumber remains on the low side of the market again for the month of May. Many brokers and distributors do not feel the lumber market has hit bottom and are being extremely cautious when buying inventory. This cautious buying is keeping pricing suppressed with mills actively looking to move material….Poly sheeting was one of the few commodities to see a recent increase as poly manufacturers pushed through a 4-7% increase in mid-April. The market appears to have accepted this increase with little pushback from buyers. With availability being stretched back out to 4-5 weeks, pricing is a secondary concern compared to availability.” Sylmar Manufacturing Co. informed customers on April 15 that it would raise prices for CPVC and PVC pipe and related products 5-12%, effective May 16. USG notified customers on May 12 that lead times were being extended to 60 days for various types of acoustical panels. In contrast, Andersen Windows & Doors notified customers on May 3 that lead time extensions have been eliminated on various window products. Readers are invited to send price and supply chain information to ken.simonson@agc.org.

“Big-city population declines deepened across the U.S. last year as the pandemic continued sending Americans in search of more space,” the Wall Street Journal reported today, citing a new Census Bureau release. “The largest cities lost a greater share of residents than small- and midsize cities during the year that ended July 1, 2021, new estimates show. Collectively, in the nine cities with more than one million people, the population fell 1.7%, a loss of 419,000 residents. Only two cities in that group grew: Phoenix and San Antonio. New York, the nation’s largest city, lost 3.5% of its residents, or about 305,000 people. The second-largest city, Los Angeles, lost 1%, or 41,000 people, while the third-largest, Chicago, lost 1.6%, or 45,000 people. San Francisco’s population fell 6.3%, a loss of 55,000 people. It and Chicago have lost so many people that their populations have fallen close to their 2010 levels. Several large cities that had logged gains in recent years saw losses, including Denver, Nashville, Tenn., Seattle and Atlanta. The nation’s midsize cities, or those with populations of 500,000 up to one million, also saw their populations edge down. Together, they declined 0.7%, losing 148,000 people. The group includes 28 cities, with San Jose, Calif., the biggest and Kansas City, Mo., the smallest. Twelve of the 28 in the group grew last year. Cities with fewer than a half-million people in effect saw flat growth. The group that ranges from 250,000 up to a half-million residents collectively lost 0.1% of its population, while those with 100,000 up to 250,000 people together grew 0.1%.” Census noted, “Eight of the 15 fastest-growing large cities or towns by percent change were in the West [five in Arizona] and seven in the South. The South and West also contained the top 15 cities with the largest numeric gains,” 11 and four, respectively.

In a sign that demand for warehouse construction may cool, Amazon “is seeking to sublease a minimum of 10 million square feet of warehouse space and is also exploring options to end or renegotiate leases with outside warehouse owners, according to a person familiar with the matter,” the Journal reported on Tuesday. “While Amazon is still determining exactly how much space to vacate, the amount is expected to be at least 10 million square feet, though it could eventually extend to double or triple that, the person said. The company has more space than it needs in some of its largest markets, including in New York, New Jersey, California and Atlanta, the person said.”