Dodge reported May new construction starts at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $778,000 million, up 15% from April. Also, year-to-date starts total $294,000 million, 3% lower than the same 5 months of 2017.
However, 2018 numbers will not be revised until next year and 2017 numbers through May have already been revised up 13%, up about 18% in nonresidential and 6% in residential. So the potential that YTD numbers remain 3% below 2017 is very small. Revisions to previous year’s numbers have averaged more than +7% for the last 5 years with most of the upward revision in nonresidential.
Revisions to 2017 year-to-date have already resulted in a 4% increase in both 2018 and 2019 starting backlog.
Although Dodge, in its midyear report, is predicting 2017 starts at a total of $763,000 million, the current rate of revision seems to indicate 2017 starts could reach closer to $800,000 million. Forecast 2018 total starts will increase only slightly over 2017.
Keep in mind, unlike the Census spending data which captures 100% of all spending, the new starts data is a sampling of project starts, representing about 60% of total work volume. For this reason, the actual starts dollars cannot be used directly to represent spending. However, the change in predicted cash flow from starts can be used to predict the change in spending.
From Sept’17 through May’18 new construction starts reached the highest average since 2004 and are just below an all-time high. Residential starts posted the best 6 months average since 2006, up 8% from the prior 6 months. Both nonresidential buildings and non-building infrastructure are lower than recent highs. Both could finish the year with starts at a decline of 4% to 5% below 2017 totals, but they are both still near the best year of starts on record.
Starts totals near new highs is in current $. If 2004$ were represented in constant 2018$, the total would be 40% higher due to inflation. So, after adjusting for inflation, today we are still 40% below that 2004 high point.
- TOTAL All Construction Starting Backlog for 2018 reached an all-time high, increased 35% in the last three years, 14% in the last year.
- Nonresidential Buildings 2018 starting backlog is the highest ever, up 50% in four years, up 17% from 2017.
- Non-building Infrastructure 2018 starting backlog is the highest ever, up 45% in three years, up 16% from 2017.
- Residential work within the year comes mostly from new starts within the year, only 30% from starting backlog.
The erratic nature of new construction starts belies how smoothly those projects feed into backlog and monthly spending.
Backlog shows fairly constant growth for the last 5 or 6 years. Spending in any given month includes projects started and entered into backlog from 1 month ago to 3 or 4 years ago. In some non-building cases, projects are in backlog for 6 to 8 years, so project starts that appear as a high spike enter backlog and spending and produce a constant upward slope. Most spending within the year in nonresidential work comes from backlog. Most spending in residential work comes from new starts.
The cash flow model of all previous jobs underway already in backlog and all new starts shows the current predicted spending. Starting backlog for 2018 plus new starts in 2018 minus all spending in 2018 generates the forecast work remaining in backlog for the start of 2019.
The predicted spending plot will be added here after July 1 Census spending release.
Much more to come in next few days. edz