Construction Economic News
Can public spending continue to play the role of industry backstop while public finances steadily become untenable?
According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s wage tracking data through August 2023, job switching no longer pays the considerable premium that it did as recently as the first half of this year. Measured as the three-month moving average of median wage growth in hourly pay, August’s results indicated 5.2% and 5.6% wage growth for job stayers and switchers respectively across all industries. At the peak of the wage growth disparity in mid-2022 job switchers experienced nearly 3% greater wage growth relative to job stayers. The collapse of this premium has come about entirely from the decline in the wage premium being offered to switchers in 2023.
COMPOSITE OVERVIEW: The project stress index composite represents an equal-weight measure of the seasonally adjusted level of pre-construction projects that have experienced a delayed bid date, have been placed on hold, or have been abandoned in the last 30-days. Compared to the average level of project stress in 2021, today’s stress level is 18.5% higher. The week’s composite result increased by 3.3% from a week ago as rising abandoned project activity more than offset small declines in delayed and on hold activity. The composite’s current 5-month high reading is the result of elevated delayed and abandoned activity in contrast to the previous high which stemmed from higher on hold activity.
COMPOSITE OVERVIEW: The project stress index composite represents an equal-weight measure of the seasonally adjusted level of pre-construction projects that have experienced a delayed bid date, have been placed on hold, or have been abandoned in the last 30-days. Compared to the average level of project stress in 2021, today’s stress level is 14.8% higher. This week’s composite result increased 5.7% from the prior week due to a 12-point and 7-point increase in abandoned and on hold projects respectively. The seasonally adjusted reading of delayed bid date projects was unchanged. The latest composite reading is the highest since mid-May of this year when a short-lived but severe increase in the level of abandoned and on hold projects elevated the composite reading.
Many contractors remain bullish on multifamily housing demand; this risks an oversupply problem--especially for luxury and high-end developers at a particularly dangerous time.
Data for the week ending September 9th reported mixed results with delayed projects both rising in the latest week as well as being revised higher in the prior week. Additionally, the level of on hold projects moved lower for a second week while abandoned projects were unchanged. Since mid-year, weekly results have pointed to an upward rise in the number of private projects reporting some form of project stress relative to public projects. This divergence in project behavior reinforces our past recommendation that contractors diversify their revenues streams by sector, vertical and geography if possible in order to minimize their company’s dependence on any single segment within the greater construction industry.
Data for the week ending September 2nd reported declining levels of delayed, on hold and abandoned projects. All three measures of project stress remain near or below comparable levels of the last two years. Historically the third quarter marks the seasonal apex in on hold and abandoned project levels. Additionally, this year’s financial markets dynamics continue to generate headwinds for construction developers and owners as banks continue to employ austere lending practices. For these reasons September’s results should be followed particularly closely.
The headline number for U.S. jobs growth in August, from today’s release of the Employment Situation report, authored by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), is +187,000, which sounds pretty good at first reading. Upon closer examination, however, it loses some luster.
This year, the jobs market has frequently been cited as a cause for economic optimism; however, recent jobs data suggest this most important pillar of the economy may be faltering.
Data for the week ending August 26th continues to signal that the transition of nonresidential and civil projects from concept to physical completion remains high. All three measures of project stress remain at or below comparable levels of recent years. Historically the third quarter of each year marks the seasonal apex in on hold and abandoned project levels; however, this year’s results are thus far on track to be their lowest since 2020. These encouraging results have come notwithstanding the headwinds caused by an eroding credit market for construction developers and owners.