Tag Archive for 'Construction Backlog Indicator'

ABC Reports : Nonresidential Construction Down in March, Says ABC Private Sector Falters, Public Sector Unchanged

Nonresidential construction spending declined 0.3 percent in March, according to an Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data released today. Nonresidential spending, which totaled $740.9 billion on a seasonally adjusted, annualized basis, has expanded 2.5 percent on a year-over-year basis. February’s spending estimate was revised roughly $10 billion higher, from $732.8 billion to $742.8 billion, rendering the March decline less meaningful.

Private sector nonresidential construction spending fell 0.4 percent on a monthly basis but rose 2.2 percent from a year ago. Public sector nonresidential spending remained unchanged in March, but it is up 2.9 percent year-over-year.

“The nonresidential construction spending data emerging from the Census Bureau continue to be a bit at odds with other data characterizing growth in the level of activity,” said ABC’s Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “For instance, first quarter GDP data indicated brisk expansion in nonresidential investment. Data from ABC’s Construction Backlog Indicator, the Architecture Billings Index and other leading industry indicators have also been suggesting ongoing growth. Despite that, private nonresidential construction spending is up by roughly the inflation rate, indicating that the volume of services delivered over the past year has not expanded in real terms.

“That said, most economists who follow the industry presumed that March data would be somewhat soft,” said Basu. “The Northeast and Midwest were impacted by unusually persistent storm activity in March. The same phenomenon impacted March’s employment estimates, which indicated that construction actually lost 15,000 jobs that month. Other weather-sensitive industries, including retail trade, also experienced slow to negative job growth in March.

“The upshot is that CEOs and other construction leaders should remain upbeat regarding near-term prospects despite today’s construction spending report,” said Basu. “Leading indicators, including a host of confidence measures, collectively suggest that business investment will be on the rise during the months ahead. Improved state and local government finances should also support additional nonresidential construction activity.

“At the same time, construction industry leaders must remain wary of a sea of emerging risks to the ongoing economic and construction industry expansions,” said Basu. “Interest rates are on the rise. Materials prices, including those associated with softwood lumber, steel, and aluminum, are expanding briskly. Wage pressures continue to build. There are also issues related to America’s expanding national debt, increasingly volatile financial markets, the geopolitical uncertainty that has helped to propel fuel prices higher, and lack of transparency regarding America’s infrastructure investment intentions. The challenge for construction CEOs and others, therefore, is to prepare for growing activity in the near-term, but for something potentially rather different two to three years from now.”

ABC Reports: Construction Input Price Growth Accelerates in August

Construction input prices rose 0.6 percent in August and are up 3.7 percent on a yearly basis, according to an analysis by Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nonresidential construction input prices behaved similarly, rising 0.6 percent for the month and 3.5 percent for the year. 

Only three of the 11 key construction input prices fell for the month. The inputs experiencing declines in prices were steel mill products (-1.5 percent), prepared asphalt, tar roofing and siding products (-0.3 percent), and natural gas (-1.8 percent). Crude petroleum prices exhibited the largest increase, rising 11 percent on a monthly basis and 15 percent on an annual basis.

“If we consider what ought to be happening with respect to materials prices, we would expect them to be marching steadily higher,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “After all, the global economic recovery is an increasingly synchronized one. China is on pace to meet growth expectations this year. Europe, Japan, Brazil, Russia and other nations are experiencing meaningfully better recoveries this year compared to 2016. While some economies like Great Britain’s and India’s have stumbled a bit lately, the broader story is one of more rapid global economic growth, driven in large measure by a low interest rate, post-austerity policy environment.

“The world’s improving global economic environment has helped stabilize demand and prices for various commodities. As a result, we are not observing the sharp declines in input prices that occurred during much of 2014 and 2015,” said Basu. “Demand for materials in the United States also remains reasonably high, given ongoing momentum in a number of private segments and indications of stable activity among road builders. The fact that asset prices have been rising, including in key global equity markets, has contributed to pushing materials prices higher, with positive wealth effects triggering greater confidence among real estate developers.

“For now, policymakers around the world appear focused on supporting economic growth.  While this may ultimately translate into problematic global inflation, for now inflation remains under control,” said Basu. “That suggests that accommodative monetary policy will continue to remain in place in much of the world, which will support asset prices, economic growth and demand for construction materials. While surging construction materials prices are unlikely during the near term, with the exception of areas recently impacted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, so too are large declines.” 

Visit ABC Construction Economics for the Construction Backlog Indicator, Construction Confidence Index and state unemployment reports, plus analysis of spending, employment, GDP and the Producer Price Index.

ABC’s Construction Backlog Indicator Fell to End 2016

Construction backlog fell by 4 percent during the last quarter of 2016, according to the latest Construction Backlog Indicator (CBI) released today by Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). Contractors in each segment surveyed—commercial/institutional, infrastructure and heavy industrial—all saw lower backlog during the fourth quarter, with firms in the heavy industrial segment experiencing the largest drop, down 16.8 percent to an average backlog of 5.5 months.

Overall, backlog—the amount of work under contract but yet to be performed—fell to 8.3 months duringthe fourth quarter. CBI rose a modest 0.4 months or 4.5 percent on a year-over-year basis.

Source: Associated Builders and Contractors

“Many factors contributed to the dip in contractors’ backlog, but none is more important than the lack of public construction spending momentum,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “Indeed, backlog among firms specializing in infrastructure has declined from 12.2 months during the final three months of 2015 to 10.6 months one year later.

“CBI is intended to be a predictive tool and has accurately predicted declining public spending for several quarters,” said Basu. “Recent construction spending data supplied by the U.S. Census Bureau confirm these declines. For instance, between January 2016 and January 2017, construction spending in the nation’s highway and street segment declined by more than 10 percent. In the water supply, public safety and transportation components, the level of construction spending declined by closer to 11 percent. In the sewage and waste disposal category, construction spending declined by a whopping 28 percent.

“A still fragile global economy, strong U.S. dollar, and stubbornly low energy prices have helped to translate into declining heavy industrial backlog,” said Basu. “The only category experiencing construction spending stability is the commercial segment. Over the past year, construction spending in office, lodging and relative categories has surged. During that same period, the CBI reading in the commercial/institutional category has remained stable.”

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Regional Highlights

Backlog declined in all major regions of the nation during 2016’s final quarter with the exception of the Northeast. A surge in financial activity and foreign investment in commercial real estate helped buoy construction in the New York metropolitan area, according to available CBI survey data. Boston continues to be propelled by its large and expanding technology sector. Stable economies in both Washington and Baltimore have also helped to drive Northeast CBI higher.
Middle States backlog sits at roughly 7.8 months. Though this represents a decline on a quarterly basis, backlog is still more than a month higher than it was a year ago. Stable-to-rising industrial production in a number of Middle States communities has helped.
Backlog in the West declined during the fourth quarter and is now at its lowest level since the first quarter of 2015. The region’s backlog has now fallen in four of the previous five quarters, largely due to dynamics among large construction firms. The technology boom in many communities, including in Silicon Valley and Seattle, has led to massive construction projects in recent years. It was expected that this level of technology-generated construction would slow a bit, and this appears to be what has transpired.
Backlog in the South fell during 2016’s final quarter, ending a prolonged period of growth that began during the third quarter of 2015. Despite this setback, backlog in the southern region remains elevated due to the volume of construction in several of the region’s most economically dynamic major metropolitan areas, including Dallas, Atlanta, Orlando and Miami.

Highlights by Industry

Foreign and domestic equity capital, searching for a satisfactory combination of safety and yield, has continued to flow into U.S. commercial real estate.
Average backlog in the heavy industrial category fell to 5.5 months during the fourth quarter, a decrease of more than 1 month. Backlog in the segment has reverted to early-2014 levels, almost 2 months later than its peak in the second quarter of 2016.
Backlog in the infrastructure category contracted in the fourth quarter but remains well above its post-recession trough. Despite falling 13.2 percent from the same time last year, backlog in the sector is up 49.8 percent from the fourth quarter of 2013.
Commercial/institutional backlog fell to end 2016, but the sector remains remarkably stable. The category’s backlog reading has hovered between 8 months and 8.3 months for the past two years.

Company Size Trends

Backlog for firms with annual revenues above $100 million fell dramatically to end 2016 with contractors shedding nearly three months of backlog on average, dropping from 13.7 months to 10.8 months. The CBI reading for this group is now at its lowest level since the second quarter of 2015.
Backlog for the smallest firms surveyed—those with annual revenues less than $30 million—remains stable. Many of these companies are subcontractors that continue to toil on privately-financed, commercial construction projects.
Firms with annual revenues between $30 million and $50 million per annum were in the only category that collectively reported rising backlog. These firms are often advantageously positioned to take on large components of commercial or institutional work, and backlog for this group now stands at a still-healthy 8.3 months.
Backlog among firms with between $50 million and $100 million in annual revenue fell fractionally during the final quarter, not enough for statistical significance. Though backlog has declined relative to the peak achieved in mid-2013, in part due to the loss of public infrastructure spending momentum, average backlog remains above 9 months.

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