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Newsmakers

Unemployment Rates Decrease in May

June 27, 2017

Non-seasonally adjusted construction unemployment rates decreased in 24 states on a year-over-year basis in May, while the construction industry employed 192,000 more workers than a year prior, according to a new analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data by Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). The national not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 5.3% in May, 0.1% higher than a year prior.

“Despite the year-over-year increase, this was the third-lowest national not seasonally adjusted May construction unemployment rate on record and the second-lowest rate since May 2000,” said Bernard M. Markstein, Ph.D., president and chief economist of Markstein Advisors, who conducted the analysis for ABC. “Also, as in April, all the states except two, Alaska and New Mexico, had estimated construction unemployment rates below 10%.”

Thirty-nine states saw declines in their May estimated rate from April, and two—Arkansas and Rhode Island—had no change.
The states with the lowest estimated non-seasonally adjusted construction unemployment rates, from lowest to highest, were Vermont (1.5%), Iowa (2.2%), Idaho (2.3%), Colorado (2.4%) and Indiana and North Dakota at 2.5%.

The states with the highest rates, from lowest to highest, were Missouri (7.9%), Mississippi (8.4%), Pennsylvania (9.3%), Alaska (10.5%) and New Mexico (10.7%), ABC said.

– Nicholas Stern, senior editor

Apartment Rent Growth in Hot Markets Set to Moderate This Year

June 26, 2017

Apartment rent growth cooled in the first quarter of the year, and a large part of the reason why can be traced to moderating activity in tech-focused markets like San Francisco and Seattle where supply in the form of unit completions is starting to catch up with demand.

Rental growth activity for the apartment sector increased 2.4% in the first quarter, down from 5.5% growth in early 2015, according to an analysis of Costar data by Wells Fargo Securities. In Portland, OR, for instance, Costar finds that cumulative completions have exceeded the previous cycle’s high, while East Bay markets near San Francisco are also seeing more unit completions. “Moreover, strong income growth in many of these markets has aided the luxury market, but the onslaught of supply has pulled activity down,” Wells analysts said.

Completions of housing structures with five or more units are set to peak this year as “… the level of starts and permits has moderated near their long-run average …,” analysts said. “Given the expected slower pace of completions, overall asking rent growth should also stabilize near its long-run average, which is around 2%.”

– Nicholas Stern, senior editor

Architecture Billings Rise in May

June 22, 2017

The Architecture Billings Index (ABI) increased 2.1 points to a reading of 53 in May, marking the fourth consecutive month that more than half of the architecture firms polled said they had an increase in design services compared to the previous month.

The new projects inquiry index was 62.4 in May, up from a reading of 60.2 the previous month, according to the American Institute of Architects (AIA). “The fact that the data surrounding both new project inquiries and design contracts have remained positive every month this year, while reaching their highest scores for the year, is a good indication that both the architecture and construction sectors will remain healthy for the foreseeable future,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, Ph.D. “This growth hasn’t been an overnight escalation, but rather a steady, stable increase.”

By region, billings increased in the South, remained unchanged in the West and fell off a bit in the Midwest. Activity in the Northeast fell below the 50 reading, suggesting more firms saw billings decrease.

According to an analysis by Wells Fargo, institutional construction starts were weak in April, with decreases in the health care and public safety sectors, while increased spending was seen in transportation and educational facilities.

“We continue to expect institutional construction outlays will post modest gains this year and next as health care legislation remains an open question,” Wells analysts noted.

– Nicholas Stern, senior editor

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