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.
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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Private residential construction spending jumped 2.2% on a month-to-month basis during December 2012. The initial estimate of a 0.4% gain for November was moved up slightly to a 0.6% increase, but the October number was pushed appreciably higher from 1.3% to 3.2%. Spending has registered nine uninterrupted months of growth, as well as 16 of the last 17 months showing expansion. The nominal dollar level of spending has now reached its highest point since late 2008 and the average from the last three months is 32% above the cyclical low.
Spending on new single-family homes decelerated to its slowest pace of month-to-month growth since the first quarter of 2012, rising 0.8% versus November. On a year-over-year basis, the nominal value of spending on new homes has risen over 28%. In addition, since bottoming out around the midway point of 2009, construction spending has surged 59%. The current NAHB forecast calls for single-family housing starts to expand for the entirety of the outlook period, but a slower pace of growth is anticipated during the first quarter of this year. They are expected to re-accelerate over the remainder of 2013, and thus we anticipate a similar pattern will likely occur for construction spending.
Construction spending on new multifamily projects jumped 6.2% during December 2012. Moreover, the initial estimate for November was revised higher from 0.5% to 1.8%, indicating spending activity finished the year strong. Of the three main categories of residential construction, multifamily has experienced the strongest rebound from its cyclical trough. Gains in spending have occurred in each of the last 15 months, with the latest month available representing the second largest percentage increase over this time period. On a year-over-year basis, the level of spending has skyrocketed more than 57% and has gained 97% from the bottom in August 2010.
Remodeling activity improved in December as spending climbed 2.9% from the prior month. Preliminary estimates for October and November were also revised higher, significantly higher in the case of October with a 1.9% decline turning into a 2.3% gain. The 3-month moving average points to a solid upward trend in home improvement spending and closed out 2012 at its highest nominal dollar value since September 2007. NAHB’s Remodeling Market Index (RMI) has offered a similar judgment on recent home improvement activity as the current and future market indicators have achieved their best readings since the first quarter of 2004.