Tag Archives: Construction

PRAGCAP: Lumber Futures Could be Pointing to Improved Residential Construction

Lumber Futures Could be Pointing to Improved Residential Construction

By Walter Kurtz, Sober Look

Lumber futures turned out to be a good predictor of US housing starts. The large decline earlier this year (see post) translated into weaker than expected residential construction in June (see post). That means we should certainly pay close attention to lumber as a leading indicator. And July is showing a steady increase in prices, potentially pointing to improving demand (see figure 1).

After a disappointing result in June, is construction picking up this month ? Many economists think so. The key data that researchers point to is the Homebuilders’ survey, which is at the highest levels since 2006 (see figure 2).

The index had certainly diverged from housing starts in the past, but the combination of this survey and higher lumber prices may be pointing to an improvement in residential construction for July. The US economy could certainly use it.

Lumber futures

(Figure 1)

Homebuilder survey

(Figure 2 – Source: DB)


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JCHS: Strong Demand for Rental Housing Driving Gains in Multifamily Construction

Strong Demand for Rental Housing Driving Gains in Multifamily Construction

by Ellen Marya
Research Assistant
As the housing recovery gains momentum, one encouraging sign has been the strong return of multifamily construction. According to the Census Bureau’s Survey of Construction and Building Permits Survey, construction on 245,300 multifamily units was started in 2012, the most since 2008. (Figure 1) The surge in construction activity is only beginning to result in new supply on the market given the long lags from the time a project is conceived until construction is completed (only 166,000 units in multifamily buildings were completed in 2012, just slightly above the low point in 2011). But looking ahead, multifamily construction will continue to accelerate, as permits for over 310,000 multifamily units were issued in 2012, also the highest level since 2008.

Source: US Census Bureau, New Residential Construction.
Gains in permitting have been widespread: three-quarters of the 100 largest metro areas accelerated their multifamily permitting in 2012. Nationwide, the multifamily rebound is outpacing improvement in the single-family market. Multifamily permitting was up over 51 percent between 2011 and 2012, more than twice the gain in single-family permits and the third consecutive double-digit increase. The rapid recovery in the multifamily sector has led to speculation that some markets may be in danger of overbuilding. But while recent gains are dramatic, a longer-term view of both supply and demand indicates that such concerns are likely overblown—at least for now.
Current increases in multifamily permitting are from historically low levels. From a peak of over 473,000 units in 2005, multifamily permits decreased by more than 70 percent to 142,000 in 2009, the fewest in 25 years. In the context of these drastic swings, permitting is just beginning to return to levels in line with long-term averages. Nationwide, in 2012, nearly 81,000 fewer multifamily units were permitted than the average annual level from 2000 to 2009. Permitting in 34 of the 100 largest metros did top average levels from the 2000s in 2012, including seven of the top ten highest permitting areas (Figure 2).

Source: JCHS tabulations of US Census Bureau, New Residential Construction.
This boost in supply is occurring in conjunction with rapidly growing demand for rentals. Nearly 93 percent of multifamily units completed in 2012 were rentals, the highest level in decades. According to the Housing Vacancy Survey, the number of renter households increased by over 1.1 million between 2011 and 2012, marking the eighth straight year of renter growth. Rentership was especially strong in each of the top ten highest permitting areas, where growth in renter households outpaced overall household growth between 2010 and 2011, the most recent years with metro-level data available from the American Community Survey. In total, these ten metros added 154,000 households between 2010 and 2011, but the number of renter households increased by nearly 268,000.

Additional signs indicate strong rental markets in these highest permitting areas. According toMPF Research, vacancy rates in professionally-managed apartment complexes were near or under 5 percent in eight of these markets as of the fourth quarter of 2012. Monthly rents in the ten markets were up an average of 3.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012 from the same quarter a year earlier, compared to 3.0 percent nationwide. As construction timelines for multifamily buildings often span several years, market conditions will continue to develop during the lag between permitting and completion of new units. However, generally tight markets and enduring renter growth suggest that the robust return of multifamily construction currently represents a response to rising demand, rather than the formation of a new bubble.


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CR: Construction Spending increased in February

Construction Spending increased in February

by Bill McBride on 4/01/2013 

Catching up …

The Census Bureau reported that overall construction spending increased in February:

The U.S. Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce announced today that construction spending during February 2013 was estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $885.1 billion, 1.2 percent above the revised January estimate of $874.8 billion. The February figure is 7.9 percent above the February 2012 estimate of $820.7 billion.

Both private construction and public construction spending increased:

Spending on private construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $613.0 billion, 1.3 percent above the revised January estimate of $605.2 billion. Residential construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $303.4 billion in February, 2.2 percent above the revised January estimate of $296.9 billion. …

February, the estimated seasonally adjusted annual rate of public construction spending was $272.1 billion, 0.9 percent above the revised January estimate of $269.6 billion.

Private Construction Spending Click on graph for larger image.

This graph shows private residential and nonresidential construction spending, and public spending, since 1993. Note: nominal dollars, not inflation adjusted.

Private residential spending is 55% below the peak in early 2006, and up 36% from the post-bubble low. Non-residential spending is 25% below the peak in January 2008, and up about 37% from the recent low.

Public construction spending is now 16% below the peak in March 2009 and just above the lowest level since 2006 (not inflation adjusted).

Private Construction SpendingThe second graph shows the year-over-year change in construction spending.

On a year-over-year basis, private residential construction spending is now up 20%. Non-residential spending is up 6% year-over-year mostly due to energy spending (power and electric). Public spending is down 1.5% year-over-year.

A few key themes:
1) Private residential construction is usually the largest category for construction spending, but there was a huge collapse in spending following the housing bubble (as expected).  Private residential is now about even with private non-residential, and residential will probably be the largest category of construction spending in 2013.  Usually private residential construction leads the economy, so this is a good sign going forward.

2) Private non-residential construction spending usually lags the economy.  There was some increase this time, mostly related to energy and power – but the key sectors of office, retail and hotels are still at very low levels.

3) Public construction spending has declined to 2006 levels (not adjusted for inflation).  This has been a drag on the economy for 4 years.

Read more at http://www.calculatedriskblog.com/2013/04/construction-spending-increased-in.html#Eg0Yro8gR0suq4mr.99

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Framing lumber prices hit an 8-year high last week as the US housing and construction sectors rebound

Framing lumber prices hit an 8-year high last week as the US housing and construction sectors rebound.

lumberA rebound in the US housing market, rising housing starts, and increased foreign demand brought framing lumber prices to an eight-year high last week of $423 per 1,000 board feet. That’s the highest price for the lumber used in the construction industry for framing new homes since the first week of March in 2005 (see blue line in chart). Framing lumber prices last week were 42.4% higher than a year ago, following year-over-year gains of more than 40% in each of the three previous weeks.

Prices for lumber futures contracts sold on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) rose by almost $5 per 1,000 board feet last week to $395, from $380.30 the previous week. Except for a slightly higher price of $390.50 in mid-February, lumber futures prices are at their highest level since the last week of March in 2005 (see red line in chart).

MP: The rebound in lumber prices last week to an eight-year high is more evidence that a robust recovery is underway in the US housing and construction markets.

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Eye on Housing: JOLTS: Rising Job Openings in Construction

JOLTS: Rising Job Openings in Construction

by Robert Dietz Eye on Housing

Recent government employment data suggest a pickup in construction sector job openings over the last half year. While consistent with the uptick in construction sector activity, particularly in home building, the data reflect only modest increases in employment thus far.

For the construction sector, Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicate that hiring levels continue to be strong enough to create net jobs (hiring minus separations). Hiring in construction totaled 319,000 in January 2013. Hiring for the sector has exceed 300,000 per month for 22 of the last 24 months.

const labor mkt_mar13

The number of open positions in the construction industry remained relatively high in the current report. At 98,000 open positions, the month of January had the second highest number of unfilled positions in the last 17 months. Successfully filling open positions with qualified workers is a top concern for home builders in 2013.

Measured as a three-month moving average, the openings rate (the blue line above) has been reflecting strength for the last six months. Combined with a declining sector layoff rate (nonseasonally adjusted), charted as a 12-month moving average in the graph above, these factors suggest good news for construction hiring in the months ahead.

Monthly employment data for February 2013 (the employment count data from the BLS establishment survey are published one month ahead of the JOLTS data) indicate that total employment in home building stands at 2.109 million, broken down as 578,000 builders and 1.531 million residential specialty trade contractors.

res const employment_mar13

According to the BLS data, over the last 12 months, the home building sector has added only 64,000 jobs. Since the point of peak decline of home building employment, when total job losses for the industry stood at 1.466 million, 125,000 positions have been added to the residential construction sector.

An outstanding puzzle remains the fact that the increase in building has outpaced employment growth for the industry. This could be due to increased hours for existing workers, but if true, it is not a sustainable situation. Expected increases in building should lead to significant growth in home building employment in 2013.

For the economy as a whole, the December JOLTS data indicate that the hiring rate remained at 3.1% of total employment. The hiring rate has been in the 3.1% to 3.4% range since January 2011. The job openings rate was also relatively unchanged at a rate of 2.7% in January. The openings rate has now been in the 2.5% to 2.7% range for more than one year.

labor market_mar13

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Eye on Housing: Residential Construction Spending Flat in January

Residential Construction Spending Flat in January

from Eye on Housing by Robert Dietz

Private residential construction spending was relatively unchanged for the first month of 2013 due to declines in the volatile remodeling spending category. Nonetheless, total residential construction spending remains near post-2009 highs and has experienced growth in 15 of the last 17 months according to data from the Census Bureau.

Spending on new single-family homes continued to expand, rising 3.6% over December’s pace. On a year-over-year basis, the nominal value of spending on new single-family homes has risen over 30%. Since bottoming out around the midway point of 2009, construction spending has surged 65%. The current NAHB forecast calls for single-family housing starts to grow in 2013, with a slower pace of expansion anticipated during the first quarter of this year.

Constr Spending Feb

Construction spending on new multifamily projects also increased in January, growing 1.7% from December 2012. Gains in spending have occurred in each of the last 16 months. On a year-over-year basis, the level of apartment spending has increased almost 55% and has – as of January – more than doubled from the cyclical low set in August 2010.

Offsetting the gains in single-family and multifamily construction, January saw a 4% drop in improvement spending that resulted flat headline growth for total private residential category.  The 3-month moving average of remodeling spending was down almost 2% but remains near post-2007 highs.

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CR: More Research on Construction Employment

More Research on Construction Employment

by Bill McBride on 2/12/2013  

A key economic question this year is how many construction jobs will be added. Here are a few excerpts from analysis Kris Dawsey and Hui Shan at Goldman Sachs: Housing Sector Jobs Poised for a Comeback

Although many indicators of housing activity improved during 2012, employment in the sector remains close to post-bubble lows. Looking only at residential construction jobs, employment declined by 1.5 million (-42%) from its peak in 2006 to its recent trough in early 2011 and edged up only a modest 100 thousand since then. However, direct residential construction employment is only a part of all residential investment-related employment. Adding in housing-related employment in manufacturing, wholesale trade, retailing, and finance & real estate, employment dropped by 2.8 million (-31%) from its peak, and gained a bit less than 300 thousand from its trough to the present …

[R]eal residential investment declined somewhat more sharply than housing-related employment in the downturn, resulting in a decline in real value added per residential investment-related worker, according to our proxy measure, from more than $80,000 in 2006 to a bit less than $60,000 in Q4:2012, in chained 2005 dollars. This pattern of declining productivity during a downturn is called “labor hoarding” by economists (although labor hoarding is probably not what most people think of during a period of sharp job cuts) and reflects businesses’ reluctance to fire workers at a rate commensurate with the decline in their sales.

The flip side of this phenomenon is more sluggish employment growth than would otherwise be the case once business activity turns around. On top of the only modest turnaround in activity, this secondary effect also argues for only a modest rebound in residential investment-related employment early on in the recovery. However, this effect may shortly be coming to an endHours per worker in the construction industry now exceed pre-crisis highs, suggesting that room to increase output on the “intensive margin” (i.e. more hours per worker) is diminishing, and that pushing on the “extensive margin” (hiring more workers) will likely account for a larger share of future increases in residential investment output.

Given that we expect real residential investment to continue growing at a roughly stable 10%-15% rate in 2013 and 2014, and that the effects of labor hoarding should be dissipating, what is our forecast for residential investment-related employment growth over the coming several years? In order to answer this question, we estimated two different econometric models: (1) an error correction model of national-level real residential investment and residential investment-related employment, and (2) a state-level panel analysis of the relationship between construction activity and employment. Both models suggest an increase in the rate of housing-related employment growth in 2013 and 2014 relative to 2012, probably to a rate around 25 to 30k per month.
emphasis added

So there analysis suggests construction companies have been increasing hours worked for current employees, but now they need to hire more workers.

Read more at http://www.calculatedriskblog.com/2013/02/more-research-on-construction-employment.html#OKpbAfueQS5EPVGs.99

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