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Economic News April 2013
Construction and homebuilding indicators are reinforcing expectations for more growth than last year, when building contributed to economic growth for the first time since 2005. A national shortage of housing inventory, government-slowed foreclosure processes and a lack of entitled land for homebuilding are also pushing home prices higher. This should sustain increased construction rates through 2013. Still, the housing market remains a shadow of its former self, with starts less than half of their pre-recession peak.





Construction growth is expected to buoy consumer interest in green building products (like permeable pavers, pictured) and increase their market share relative to non-green alternatives. The latest version of LEED will include a lifecycle analysis of building materials used in projects up for certification, increasing the spotlight on sustainable materials.


Green Building Spending to Increase Through 2017

A rebound in construction activity will create 11 percent annual growth in sustainable construction materials in the U.S., reaching $86.6 billion in sales by 2017, according to Green Building Materials, a new market research report from The Freedonia Group.

Construction growth will increase demand for construction materials, and products that assist in LEED certification or other sustainable rating systems are predicted to receive a larger boost in sales. Exterior products like energy-efficient windows and green roofing will remain the largest market segment.

"Green building products like ENERGY STAR-compliant HVAC systems and permeable pavement are forecast to see substantial gains through 2017," according to the study. "Recycled concrete will see rising use, as concrete made with fly ash and other additives features superior performance properties and are less costly than concrete made solely from cement and aggregates."

This Month In Numbers

15.7%

Construction unemployment fell from 17.1 percent in February 2012 to 15.7 percent in February 2013, adding 48,000 jobs from January and 140,000 jobs year-over-year. Jobs increased for the ninth consecutive month in February, and the industry employed 5.78 million people, more than at any point in the last three and a half years. Credit: U.S. Labor Department

44
The homebuilder confidence index, which measures market outlook and sales expectations of working builders, declined two points to 44 in March following a one-point February drop. A score below 50 indicates negative market perceptions. Builder confidence increased through most of 2012 before leveling off in November and declining slightly since. Credit: National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo

274
Number of metropolitan housing markets on the NAHB/First American Improving Markets Index (IMI) in March, identifying areas that have improved for at least six consecutive months from their lowest points in housing permits, employment and home prices. Credit: National Association of Home Builders

Construction Materials Prices Keep Rising in February

The price index that tracks what contractors pay for construction materials leaped 1.3 percent between January and February, a one-month surge equivalent to the increase made over the whole of 2012, according to a March 15 report from the Associated General Contractors of America. The index was 2.0 percent higher than in February 2012, outpacing the increase in prices contractors can charge for most types of new buildings. "For the second month in a row, contractors endured outsized price hikes for gypsum wallboard, lumber, and insulation materials," said Ken Simonson, chief economist for the AGC. "Soaring diesel prices mean contractors are paying more for fuel they buy and, via fuel surcharges, for the thousands of deliveries of materials and equipment required for construction projects."

New Home Construction, February
917,000
new housing starts, seasonally adjusted annual rate (SA)

946,000
new building permits, seasonally adjusted annual rate (SA)

+27.7
housing starts rate change since February 2012 (SA)

+33.8
building permits rate change since February 2012 (SA)

2.27
housing starts annual rate peak (millions), January 2006

2.26
building permits annual rate peak (millions), September 2005

The rate at which builders started construction on new homes rose 0.8 percent between January and February, nearing a five-year high, and permits for future construction jumped 4.6 percent, the highest rate since June 2008. Starts for single-family homes, which comprise about two-thirds of the combined monthly total with multi-unit housing, edged up 0.5 percent in February to a 617,000-unit rate, also the highest level since June 2008. Credit: U.S. Commerce Department








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