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A 16-day partial government shutdown temporarily closed the Census and Commerce Department websites last month, delaying September reports on the construction and housing markets and rousing concern over the government's stability. Lawmakers ultimately agreed to a deal that increased the federal borrowing limit and re-opened the government through early 2014, but the short-term fix does little to address the long-term spending and solvency problems in Washington. Trade organizations widely denounced the shutdown and the government's inability to get their house in order.

"Like most Americans, AIA members are extremely disillusioned with the current state of affairs in the nation's capital," said American Institute of Architects' President Mickey Jacob, FAIA. "The design and construction industry is slowly recovering from one of the worst economic crises in modern history. The last thing we need is the self-inflicted wound that can potentially further damage the economy."

-33% - About 939,000 homes in the U.S. were in some stage of foreclosure as of August 2013, compared to 1.4 million in August 2012, a 33 percent decrease of the "shadow inventory" of distressed homes. August was the 22nd consecutive month of year-over-year decline, and total shadow inventory has declined by double digits for 10 consecutive months YoY.
Source: National Assn. of Homebuilders/First American

+10.7% - Existing-home sales in September reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.29 million units, 10.7 percent above the 4.78 million-unit pace in September 2012. Month-over-month, sales declined 1.9 percent from a downwardly revised 5.39 million in August. Limited inventory continues to push home prices upward, reducing affordability to a four-year low and threatening future home sales.
Source: National Assn. of Realtors

55 - Builder confidence in the single-family housing market reached a four-month low in October, falling two points to 55 from a downwardly revised September reading. "A spike in mortgage interest rates, along with the paralysis in Washington that led to the government shutdown and uncertainty regarding the nation's debt limit, have caused builders and consumers to take pause," said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. The index has registered a positive (50+) rating since June.
Source: National Assn. of Homebuilders/Wells Fargo

52 - Only 52 housing markets out of about 350 metro areas nationwide have returned to or exceeded pre-recessionary levels of activity, according to the inaugural NAHB Leading Markets Index (LMI). The index's nationwide score of .85 indicates that, based on current permits, prices and employment data, the nationwide housing market is running at 85 percent of normal activity.
Source: National Assn. of Homebuilders/First American

Construction Spending, August:
Construction spending rose 5.9% year-over-year in August, reaching a $951.1 billion annual rate.

  • Outlays increased for the 5th consecutive month, reaching the highest level since April 2009
  • Spending grew 0.6% from an upwardly revised July
  • Private construction increased 0.7% month-over-month, reaching the highest level since January 2009
  • Spending remains about 27% less than the pre-recession peak, a $1.21 trillion annual rate set in March 2006
Note: the August construction report was released Oct. 22 by the Commerce Dept. due to the recent government shutdown.

Construction Materials, August:
Construction materials prices increased 0.2% in August after remaining flat in July.

  • Residential construction materials prices increased 0.3%
  • Nonresidential construction inputs prices grew 0.5%
  • Price increases: metals, lumber, energy and energy-related products
  • Price declines: cement, gypsum, natural gas
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Producer Price Index (PPI)

Construction Employment, September:
Unemployment in the construction industry fell to a six-year low of 8.5% in September, adding 20,000 new jobs.

  • Industry employment totaled 5.826 million workers, 3.4% more than September 2012
  • Weekly aggregate hours rose 4.2% year-over-year, indicating longer shifts for current workers
  • Worker shortages, public spending cuts and the government shutdown could threaten continued growth
  • "The industry was doing relatively well before the federal government shutdown forced many firms to hit the pause button ... [On] a year-over-year basis, public construction has continued its long decline, private nonresidential spending is mixed, and only home and apartment construction is booming."
- Ken Simonson, chief economist, Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) - Source: Labor Dept./AGC

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December 10, 2019, 8:02 pm PDT

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