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The availability of lots to build on has hit an all-time low according to the most recent NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index. In the nearly 20 years that it has been gauging builder sentiment about this issue, the perception of lot shortages has never been as dire as the most recent findings with 64 percent reporting a low or very low supply - a two percent increase from the previous record set in May of last year.

On the plus side, the index reported that in spite of building permits for single-family homes declining two percent in May compared to April, builders' confidence in the single-family home market registered a score of 60; up two points from the previous month, and the best level in four months.

According to May's Small Business Optimism Index, expectations by small business owners remained virtually unchanged when averaging the ten components measured, but the outlook for a better economy was up five points over the previous reading. Plans to hire were also up, reflecting the continued difficulty small business owners are having filling open positions.

National Numbers
Origination - (April-to-May)
Architecture Billing Index (ABI): 53.1, up from 50.6
New projects inquiry index: 60.1, up from 56.9
Source: American Institute of Architects

Single-family: -2.0%
Multi-family: +5.9%
Combined total: +0.7%

Single-family: +4.8%
Multi-family: -28.1%
Combined total: -10.1%
(Year-to-Year) - Source: u.s. census bureau

Single-family: +0.3%
Combined total: -0.3%

Single-family: +10.0%
Combined total: +9.5%
(Year-to-Year) - Source: u.s. census bureau

Single-family: +2.3%
Combined total: +5.1%

Single-family: +10.8%
Combined total: -3.5%
(Year-to-Year) - Source: u.s. census bureau

Home Sales
Existing Homes:
+1.8% from April
+4.5% from May 2015
Source: National Association of Realtors

New Homes:
-6.0 % from April
+6.4% from May 2015
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Regional Report
Even though the Construction Backlog Indicator was down nationally only slightly in the first quarter of 2016, signaling to some that the level of construction activity is stabilizing; regionally it was a different story. According to the index produced by Associated Builders and Contractors, the Northeast (-2.6 percent) and the West (-1.7 percent) held somewhat steady but the South dropped 9.7 percent and the backlog in the Middle States saw a 14.4 percent increase.

States' employment performances varied widely in May. Florida added 24,500 jobs and California kicked in with 15,200 jobs; in both cases dropping the jobless rate 0.1 percent. New York lost 15,000 jobs, Minnesota shed 1,900 and North Carolina took 1,600 off its books. Hiring in Texas and Georgia was flat; each with 200 positions gained but Georgia's unemployment rate fell to the lowest in eight years at 5.3 percent.

Anomalies - U.S. percentage in parenthesis
Combined permits year-over-year (-10.1):
Northeast: -67.1%
West: +20.2%
(but single-family permits up 2.0%)

Combined starts month-over-month (-0.3):
Northeast: -33.3% (but single-family starts up 12.7%)

Combined starts year-over-year (+9.5):
Northeast: -42.7%
Midwest: +37.2%
(but single-family starts up 12.7%)

Combined completions month-over-month (+5.1):
Northeast: -25.3%

Combined completions year-over-year (-3.5):
Northeast: -57.8%
(but single-family completions up 14.3%)

New home sales month-over-month (-6.0):
Northeast: -33.3%

New home sales year-over-year (+8.7):
Northeast: +30.8%

The EPA recently announced the six cities that it will provide financial support to as part of their Greening America's Communities program, which assists municipalities in implementing green infrastructure to help solve a variety of issues including stormwater management, pedestrian traffic and urban heat islands. The recipients of this year's program are Columbia, South Carolina; Brownsville, Texas; Oklahoma City; Muscatine, Iowa; Honolulu, and Multnomah County, Oregon.

The latest Houzz and Home Report, a survey of more than 120,000 U.S. homeowners, found that renovators of recently purchased homes invest an average of $66,000 in their projects compared to the $59,800 invested by owners of homes not recently purchased. Also, those preparing their homes for sale spend an average of $36,300 on renovations, focusing on exterior projects that bring better curb appeal.

As seen in LC/DBM magazine, July 2016.

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November 18, 2019, 10:48 am PDT

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