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How to Use Construction Starts Data

New Construction Starts data is published monthly by Dodge Data and Analytics. Starts data captures a share of the total market or a portion of all construction, on average about 50% to 60% of all construction. Changes in sample size can introduce potential errors in forecast when using starts to predict construction spending.

In any survey, if sample size remains constant, let’s say at 50% of actual output, but survey response increases 5%/year, then that reflects output should increase at 5%/year. However, if survey response increases at 5%/year but sample size is increasing at 3%/year (50%, 53%, 56%, 59%, etc.) then actual output should increase at only 2%/year.

For a survey sample to be used to compare to itself from year to year to predict growth in spending, sample size must remain constant from year to year. If it is not constant, the apparent growth in starts does not all reflect real growth in spending.

It is impossible within a single year to verify if the current market share captured is constant with previous year sample size. The sample period of data is a year of new starts. To find out if the sample size is consistent, the sample must be compared to actual spending from starts from that period. Starts from any given year get spent over a period of the next 2 to 4 years. It takes several years to see the pattern of starts sample size versus actual spending. 

An average spending pattern for nonresidential buildings starts, OR A TYPICAL CASH FLOW CURVE, for any given year is: 20% of the revenue gets spent in the year started, 50% in the next year and 30% in the 3rd and 4th year. Multi-billion $ highway projects, manufacturing facilities, power projects and transportation terminals would have much longer duration cash flow curves. In other words, if you desire to predict construction spending in 2019, you need to know what starts were at a minimum in 2017 and 2018, and in many cases back to 2016 or even 2015.

2018 construction starts do not provide enough information to predict 2019 spending.

If starts survey sample size varies from year to year, it’s possible some of the spending growth anticipated from new starts may not represent growth in real volume of future work but could simply represent a change in sample size. Potential significant variations in sample size are seen in the data and may cause errors in the forecast.

Here are some examples. In the following table the line item “starts vs actual cash flow $” uses cash flow curves unique to each type of construction. For instance, in Office and Educational the spending curve is close to the average 20%/50%/30% as described above. That means 2015 starts is compared to a cash flow curve that spreads spending of 2015 starts over the next three years by 20%/50%/30%.

Starts vs Spending Cash Flow 3-2-19

In the Educational data we see it is unusual that Starts and Backlog continued to grow for five years but that same rate of growth was not reflected in actual spending. From 2013 to 2018 new starts increased more than 60% but spending for the period of those starts (97% gets spent between 2014-2020) increased only 30%. That would seem to indicate a very large volume of work is growing in backlog, and spending, at some point, should boom and remain high for an extended period. But the cash flow model is not in agreement.

A possible explanation is the sample survey of new starts has been increasing, so not all the starts growth for five years represents growth in new work. Some of the increase in starts is simply growth in sample size.

As evidence, Educational starts for the period 2012-2015 averaged just less than 50% sample size of actual total spending. In 2016-2018 the average sample size vs spending was over 60%.

 

Office Spending increased by 20%/year from 2013 to 2016, but in 2017 it turned to a 1% decline. That was unusual and unexpected since 2016 starts and 2017 backlog had both reached 10-year highs. Highly probable is that the sample size of starts increased dramatically in 2016 and the increase in starts was not all growth in real volume but was partially just a change in sample size, therefore the 2017 spending forecast may have been significantly overstated.

For the period 2011-2015 sample size increased from 45% to near 50% of actual total spending. In 2016, sample size jumped 25%! For 2016-2018 the average sample size vs spending was near 60%.

 

Transportation Terminals and Rail starts reached record high in 2017, both up 120% after a 35% increase in 2016. Starting Backlog increased 22% in 2017 then jumped 95% in 2018. Spending in 2018 is forecast to finish up more than 20%. However, Transportation sample size of new starts may have increased far more than any other market. Does it all represent a real increase in future spending or is this a good example of a change in sample size?

For the period 2011-2015 sample size increased from 25% to 30% of actual total spending. In 2016, sample size jumped to 40% of actual. In 2017 sample size jumped to 70%!

A large portion of the 2017 increase in starts is expected to be a change in sample size. Starts more than doubled from 2015 to 2017. If all that represented an increase in volume, spending would have doubled from 2016 to 2019. We already have actual spending in hand of more than half of 2017 starts and there is no possible outcome that shows the 125% increase in new starts in 2017 will produce an equivalent increase in spending. Most of the actual spending occurs in 2018 and 2019. For those two years, spending will be up 35%.

 

Office in 2016 posted a 31% increase in starts, mostly due to Hudson Yards and Vanderbilt Tower in NYC. This appears to have increased the annual share of market captured in the starts for 2016. Overall spending in the following years did not increase. Transportation starts in 2017 posted a 121% increase, but almost all of that can be attributed to an increase in market share captured due to $16 billion in starts for LaGuardia, Orlando and LAX airport work. In a year when several multi-billion $ projects start, the starts data share of market increases. This signifies a change in survey size, not an equally sizable increase in future construction spending.

Starts vs Spending Cash Flow 3-12-19

These examples show that starts share of market captured from year to year are not all consistent and therefore starts compared to previous year should not be used to predict spending directly but that starts sample size must be analyzed before using the data to forecast future spending. Construction Analytics models adjusted starts using unique cash flow curves to predict construction spending for the Economic Forecast published here.

Starts Modeling 3-7-19

2019 Construction Economic Forecast – Nonresidential – Dec 2018

Construction Analytics 2019 Construction Economic Forecast – Nonresidential

This Dec. 2018 Construction Economic Forecast analysis addresses New Construction Starts, Inflation, Cash Flow or distribution of construction work over time, Annual Backlog and Spending. New Starts is new work entering Backlog. Cash Flow gives the pattern of Spending. Inflation differentiates between Revenue and Volume. Backlog, which can be referenced to assess expected future Volume and Spending, provides an indication of when Volume occurs or in what year Revenues occur. Starts data is from Dodge Data & Analytics. Spending data is from the U.S. Census Bureau. Jobs data is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Inflation data is from the source labeled. Cash flow, Backlog and Inflation forecast data are developed internally. All data in this report is national level data. All forecast data is by Construction Analytics.

NOTE 12-6-18: Dodge Data and Analytics new construction starts for October, released 11-20-18, reached the 2nd highest seasonally adjusted annual rate ever, 2nd only to June 2018.  Most spending from these new starts will occur in 2020. This will increase the 2020 nonresidential buildings spending forecast, with the largest increase in manufacturing. Construction Starts for October, the Dodge end-of-year report and October spending, all released between 11-21-18 and 12-3-18 significantly alter this analysis. The biggest changes reduced residential spending for the next two years.  See the 2019 Construction Economic Forecast – Summary for the residential analysis.

This analysis was edited 12-6-18 to include that most recent starts data and the U S Census October spending data.

 

Summary

Total of All construction spending is forecast to increase 6% to $1.321 trillion in 2018 and 1.5% to $1.341 trillion in 2019. Spending in 2020 is forecast to reach $1.426 trillion.

01e summary

Nonresidential Buildings construction spending is forecast to increase 6% to $444 billion in 2018, 0% to $443 billion in 2019 and 9% to $482 billion in 2020. The forecast for 2019 will be supported by Office (which includes data centers) and Amusement/Recreation but there is downward pressure from slowdowns or timing of cash flow in Manufacturing, Lodging, Healthcare and Educational. Educational, Healthcare, Recreation, Office and Manufacturing all support growth in 2020.

Residential construction spending for 2018 was recently revised down and starts for 2019 are expected flat to down slightly. The forecast is now for an increase of 5.6% to $562 billion in 2018, 0.5% to $564 billion in 2019 and 2.3% to $577 billion in 2020. Although residential spending is still increasing, growth has slowed to less than inflation. Real volume after inflation is declining.

Nonbuilding Infrastructure construction spending is forecast to increase 7.2% to $316 billion in 2018, 5.7% to $334 billion in 2019 and 10.1% to $368 billion in 2020. Transportation spending provides strong growth for the next three years from record new starts in 2017 and the 2nd best year of starts in 2018. Public Works had strong growth in 2018 starts and Highway starts hit a new high in 2018.

27 sector plot for cover

In July of the following year the spending data for the previous two years gets revised. Those revisions are always up, although some markets may increase while others decrease. So, even though the current forecast for 2018 is $1,328 trillion, a gain of 6.5%, that will most likely increase.

Dodge Data construction starts are initially anticipated to finish 2018 flat compared to 2017. However, starts are always revised upward in the following year. I expect revisions will show 2018 starts increased by 4% over 2017. Even with revisions, 2018 starts will post the slowest growth since 2011. Starts increased 84% in the period 2012-2017, residential 150% and nonresidential buildings 80%. This forecast includes only a total of 10% growth for the 3-year period 2018-2020.

Starting backlog, currently at an all-time high, increased on average 10%/year the last three years. For 2019 starting backlog is forecast up 10% over 2018. 80% of all Nonresidential spending within the year will be generated from projects in starting backlog. Due to long duration jobs, 2019 nonresidential buildings starting backlog is up 50% in the last 4 years. Current indications are that 2019 backlog will be up 6%-8% across all sectors.

 

Construction Inflation Indices

Outside of recession years, nonresidential buildings construction spending year over year growth dropped below 4% only SIX times in 50 years. The long-term average inflation is 3.75%. Every year that spending dropped below 4% growth, nonresidential buildings real volume declined.

Construction Analytics Nonresidential buildings inflation forecast for 2018 is 4.9%. Current reliable inflation forecasts range from 4.7% to 5.6%. Inflation in this sector has been at 4% or higher the last four years.

Anticipate national average construction inflation for nonresidential buildings for 2018 and 2019, including steel tariff impact, of 4.25% to 5.5%, rather than the long-term growth average of 4%. Adjust for any other yet unknown tariffs that may hit after Jan 1, 2019.

In the following plot, Construction Analytics Building Cost Index annual percent change for nonresidential buildings is plotted as a line against a bar chart background of the range of all other nonresidential building inflation indices. Usually the lows are formed by market basket input indices while the highs are formed by other selling price indices.

02 inflation bars

Non-building Infrastructure indices are far more market specific than any other type of index. Reference specific Infrastructure indices rather than any average.

These links point to comprehensive coverage of the topic inflation and are recommended reading.

Click Here for Link to a 20-year Table of 25 Indices

Click Here for Cost Inflation Commentary – text on Current Inflation

 

New Construction Starts

All construction starts data in this report references Dodge Data & Analytics Starts Data.

For nonresidential buildings, approximately 20% of the spending occurs in the year started, 50% in the next year, 25% in the third year and only 5% in the fourth year or later year. This means that nonresidential spending growth in 2019 is still being affected by starts from 2016.

The following plot show the 3-month moving average and trend line of starts for Nonresidential Buildings. Starts can be erratic from month to month. The trend line gives a better impression of how starts impact spending. It is the rate of change in starts cash flows that provides a predicting tool for spending.

06 starts nonres bldgs

Starts are sometimes misinterpreted in common industry forecasting articles. Starts dollar values represent a survey of about 50% to 60% of industry activity, therefore Starts dollar values cannot ever be used directly to indicate the volume of spending. Also, Starts do not directly indicate changes in spending per month or per year. Only by including an expected duration for all Starts and producing a forecast Cash Flow from Starts data can the expected pattern of spending be developed. Finally, it is the rate of change in Starts Cash Flows that gives an indication of the rate of change in spending.

Starts is a survey sample of a portion of all construction, on average about 50% to 60% of all construction. This can introduce potential error when using starts to predict spending. In any survey, if sample size remains constant, let’s say at 50% of population, but survey response increases 5%/year, then output of the population should increase at 5%/year. However, if survey response increases at 5%/year but sample size is increasing at 3%/year then output of the population should increase at only 2%/year.

If starts survey sample size varies from year to year, it’s possible some of the anticipated spending growth reported by new starts may not represent growth in real volume of future work but could simply represent a change in sample size. Potential significant variations in sample size are seen in the data and may cause errors in the forecast. The detail of Education spending provides an example.

 

Starting Backlog

Nonresidential Buildings starting backlog at the beginning of 2018 reached an all-time high. For nonresidential buildings this backlog will contribute spending until the end of 2021. Starting Backlog for 2019 is forecast to increase 8%. For purposes of this analysis, I’ve set only moderate or low increases in starts for 2020 and 2021, so this forecast may hold down the future backlog and spending forecast. However, backlog leading into 2019 is up 70% in 5 years.

08e nonres bklg

Starting Backlog is the Estimate-to-Complete (ETC) value of all projects under contract at the beginning of a period. Projects in starting backlog could have started last month or last year or several years ago.

  • 75%-80% of all Nonresidential Buildings spending within the year will be generated from projects in starting backlog.
  • 80%-85% of all Non-Building Infrastructure spending within the year will be generated from projects in starting backlog.

09 start bklg plot

Non-building Infrastructure starting backlog at the beginning of 2018 reached an all-time high. Some of this is very long-term work that will contribute spending until the end of 2025. In fact, more than half of all spending in 2019 comes from projects that started prior to Jan 2018. 2019 Backlog is forecast to increase 10%. Backlog is up 45% in 5 years but is up 50% in just the last 3 years.

10e infra bklg

 

Cash Flow

Simply referencing total new starts or backlog does not give the complete picture of spending within the next calendar year. Projects, from start to completion, can have significantly different duration. An office building could have a duration of 18 to 24 months and a billion-dollar infrastructure project could have a duration of 3 to 4 years. New starts within any given year could contribute spending spread out over several years. Cash flow totals of all jobs can vary considerably from month to month, are not only driven by new jobs starting but also by old jobs ending, and are heavily dependent on the type, size and duration of jobs.

Although new nonresidential buildings starts increased only 1.6% in 2018 note that cash flow increases by almost 8% due to a very large increase from starting backlog. To a lesser extent the same thing happens in 2019.

Non-building infrastructure starts and cash flow follows a similar pattern. In 2018 and 2019 new starts decline moderately, spending from new starts declines substantially but starting backlog and spending from starting backlog increases are so strong that total cash flow within the year continues to increase.

 

 Nonresidential Buildings Spending

Construction spending is strongly influenced by the pattern of continuing or ending cash flows from the previous two to three years of construction starts. Current month/month, year/year or year-to-date trends in starts often do not indicate the immediate trend in spending.

Nonresidential Buildings construction spending is forecast to increase 5.8% to $444 billion in 2018, fall -0.2% to $443 billion in 2019 and climb 8.9% to $482 billion in 2020. Office (which includes data centers) and Amusement/Rec support the 2019 forecast but there is downward pressure from slowdowns or timing of cash flow in Manufacturing, Lodging, Healthcare and Educational. Educational, Healthcare, Recreation, Office and Manufacturing all support growth in 2020.

17e spend nonres bldgs

18 nonres bldgs plot

Nonresidential buildings construction spending in constant $ (inflation adjusted $ to base 2017) will reach $424 billion in 2018 after hitting a post-recession peak of $431 billion in 2016 and dropping to $419 billion in 2017. In 2019 constant $ spending will total $420 billion. Constant $ spending or real volume growth shows all years from 1996 through 2009 had higher volume than any years 2016-2019. Volume reached a peak near $530 billion in 2000 & 2001 and went over $500 billion again in 2008. In constant $ volume, I don’t see returning to that peak before 2023.

19 nonres cur con 

Educational

New Starts averaged YOY growth of 11%/year for the last five years. Starts from the last five months of 2017 posted the highest 5mo total in at least seven years, 13% higher than the next best 5mo. The highest and 2nd highest quarters were both within the last 15 months, so both those periods contribute fully to 2018 spending. 2017 starts will support 25% of spending in 2019. Starts are expected to finish 2018 up 5%. 2018 starts will support 50% of spending in 2019 and 20% of spending in 2020.

Bklg 01e Educ

Backlog in five years 2014-2018 increased 11%/year. It is unusual that Starts and Backlog continue to grow for five years but that growth is not reflected in actual spending. From 2013 to 2018 new starts increased 66% but spending for the period of those starts will increase only 34%. That would seem to indicate a very large volume of work is growing in backlog and spending at some point should boom and remain high for an extended period, but the cash flow model is not in agreement. A possible explanation is the sample survey of new starts has been increasing, so not all the starts growth for five years represents growth in new work. Some of the increase in starts is simply growth in sample size. Educational starts 2012-2015 averaged 50% sample size of total spending. In 2016-2018 the average sample size vs spending was 60%.

Spending is now at a post-recession high.  Spending increased 6%/year for 2015, 2016 and 2018, while 2017 increased only 1%. 2017 and 2018 are still subject to revision. Expect to see growth level off until mid-2019. Leveling at post-recession high is not a bad thing. A build-up of backlog is indicating that spending should increase substantially, but a disconnect in the analysis was noted above. Spending growth increases again in 2020.

At peak, educational represented 30% of all nonresidential buildings spending. Now it’s only 22%. That’s expected to increase slightly for the next three years.

Educational construction spending is forecast to reach $96 billion in 2018, $93 billion in 2019 and $103 billion in 2020.

 

Healthcare

Starts are at an all-time high, up almost 40% in the last 5 years. Some longer duration projects push a substantial amount of spending out to 2020.

Bklg 02e Hlthcr

Backlog increased 11% for 2017 and 8% for 2018. Backlog has been increasing unevenly and grew 30% in 4 years. Backlog increases 3% to start 2019 but is not indicating spending growth in 2019. Cash flow from backlog is indicating spending growth in 2020.

Spending has been very slow to recover, experiencing declines as recently as 2013 and 2014, hitting an 8 year low in 2014, when all other nonresidential building markets had already returned to growth. 2017 posted a gain of 4.4% but then 2018 gained less than 1%. Backlog is increasing but real spending gains won’t materialize until 2020.

Like Educational, backlog growth has been exceeding spending growth for the last few years. That would indicate spending at some point may boom and remain high for an extended period. Cash flow models indicate this may occur in 2020. Other possible explanations are; starts are overstated; cash flow curves (average 28mo) are too short in duration; projects got canceled after starts were recorded; large spending revisions could get posted in the future.

Healthcare construction spending for 2018 is forecast to finish at $42 billion, an increase of only 0.7% over 2017. Considering 4% inflation, Healthcare real volume has declined every year since 2012 with exception of 2017 which would have been flat. It will decline again in 2019 with a forecast -2.7% decline in spending. 2020 realizes the 1st big spending increase in 8 years, +14% to $47 billion.

 

Amusement/Recreation

Starts are up 13% in 2018. Although down 1% in 2017, starts increased at an average rate of 15%/yr. from 2013 through 2017. Within the past 15 months there have been five billion-dollar project starts.

Bklg 03e Amuse.JPG

Starting backlog increased 20%/yr for the last four years while spending was increasing at a rate of 10%/year. This means backlog should continue to support increased spending at least for the next few years.

Spending hit an 8 year low in 2013 but we’ve had 3 years of excellent growth of 10%/yr or more since then. 2017 spending increased only 7% and 2018 11%, but cash flow is indicating a 12% increase for 2019. This market is only 5% of nonresidential buildings spending.

Amusement/Recreation construction spending for 2018 is forecast to reach $28 billion, an increase of 12% over 2017. 2019 is forecast to increase 12% to $31 billion.

Pic Educ Hlth Amuse.jpg 

Commercial/Retail

Commercial/Retail starts have been increasing every year since 2010 but starts in 2018 are flat vs 2017 Starts are at a peak but after 5 years of 15%-20% growth/year are up only 4% in the last two years.

Commercial starts are seeing strong gains from distribution centers (warehouses which are in commercial spending). The decline in retail stores is being hidden by the increase in warehouses, which are at an all-time high. Stores are down 10% from the peak in 2016. Warehouses are still up only 4% in 2018 but increased 500% from 2010 to 2017.

In 2010, Warehouse starts were only 1/3 of Store new starts. In 2018, Warehouse starts are 25% greater than Store starts. Warehouse starts have increased between 20%-40%/year for seven years and are now five times greater than in 2010. See this Bloomberg article Warehouses Are Now Worth More Than Offices, Thanks to Amazon

Bklg 04e Comm

Some big projects from a period of strong new starts growth are ending. This will slow spending after 7 years of strong growth. 2018 backlog still produces a spending increase which may finish close to +5%, but forecast shows spending slows even more to only 2% in 2019 and less than 1% in 2020.

The biggest change in Commercial/Retail in the last few years is that backlog is now more heavily weighted with warehouse projects than store projects. The mix has shifted from 60/40 stores in 2014-2015 to 55/45 warehouses in 2018-2019.

Spending dropped from the high of $90 billion in 2007 to $40 billion in 2010. It has been growing steadily since reaching bottom in early 2011 and has recovered to an annual total rate of $92 billion in 2018. Spending increased an average of 13%/year for six years from 2012 through 2017. Spending growth will be flat in 2019 and 2020 but we are currently near the all-time high. It is worth noting that the $92 billion in 2018 dollars after accounting for inflation is still 30% lower than the $90 billion of spending in 2007.

Commercial/Retail construction spending is forecast to reach $92 billion in 2018, $91 billion in 2019 and $90 billion in 2020, flat to no growth after seven strong years.

 

Office

Starts finished 2018 up 8%. In 2016 starts were up 30% and had reached similar too highs in 1998 and 2006-2007. Starts have been increasing since 2010 with the strongest growth period 2013-2016, up 25%/year. Although the rate of growth slowed in 2017 and 2018, the total amount of starts is at an all-time high. In the last 12 months there are no less than a dozen project starts valued each at over $500 million, a few of those over $1 billion. That high-volume period of starts will elevate spending through 2019 and well into 2020. Data centers are included in Office.

Bklg 05e Offc

Backlog for 2017 was the highest in at least 8 years, more than double at the start of 2014 when the current growth cycle of office construction spending began. For 2018, backlog reached a new high, up 25% over 2017. Starting backlog for 2019, up 19%, is three times what it was just five years ago. Office starting backlog 2017-2019 increased an average of 20%/year. Backlog growth should support strong spending into 2020.

Growth of only 1% in starts for 2019 and 3% increase for 2020 keeps office starts near the all-time high. Even with low growth in new starts for the next two years, the amount of work in backlog from starts on record provides growth in spending for the next three years.

Spending increased by 20%/year from 2013 to 2016, but in 2017 it turned to a 1% decline. That was unusual and unexpected since 2016 starts and 2017 backlog had both reached 10-year highs. Possible explanations might be: a very large number of projects were canceled or delayed; potential revisions to 2017 Office spending may still be pending (In July every year, the previous two years of spending gets revised); but highly probable is the sample size of starts increased dramatically in 2016 and the 30% increase in starts was not all growth in real volume but was partially just a change in sample size, therefore the spending forecast may have been significantly overstated.

Again, it is worth noting that spending in 2018, which for the first time returned to the previous highs posted in 2008, once adjusted for inflation is still about 25% lower in real volume than 2008.

Office construction spending is forecast to reach $74 billion in 2018, $79 billion in 2019 and $84 billion in 2020.

 

Lodging

Lodging posted a new high for starts in 2018, up 8% over 2017. For the period 2011-2016 starts averaged over 30%/year growth for six years. In 2017, starts declined 4% but that remained near the 2016 high. Now with a gain in 2018, those three years average very evenly. Peak starts were in 2016.

Bklg 06 Lodg

Starting backlog averaged increases of 30%/yr. from 2015 to 2017. Lodging starting backlog jumped from $7 billion/yr. in 2014 to $15 billion/yr. in 2018. It has supported similar spending growth. Lodging projects have relatively short duration and timing of starts within the year is important to spending and next-year starting backlog. Compared to most other types of nonresidential buildings, a greater than average percentage of lodging spending occurs within the year started. So, movement in starts has a greater impact on spending within the year.

Lodging spending recorded the largest drop of any market, falling 75% from $36 billion in 2008 to $9 billion in 2011. However, it also recorded the strongest rebound of any market, climbing 20% to 30% per year for the 5-years 2012-2016. In 2011, Lodging dropped to only 3% of total sector spending. It rebounded to 7% in 2017. Lodging actual spending increased 12% in 2018. It’s still not back to the previous high of $36 billion in 2008. Beyond 2018, spending will decline, but this is after 6 years of growth totaling 300%.

Lodging construction spending for 2018 is forecast to reach $32 billion, an increase of 12% over 2017. Spending is forecast at $31 billion for 2019 and $32 billion for 2020.

Pic Comm Offc Lodg

 

Religious and Public Safety

Spending of $11-$12 billion/year represents only 2.5% of total nonresidential building spending. In 2008-2009 it was 5% of the total. The religious building market has been declining since 2002 and is down 55% since then. Public Safety peaked in 2009 and has declined every year through 2017, down 40% from the peak. In 2018, public safety spending is increasing.

I don’t track starts or backlog for these markets. I do track monthly spending and carry a forecast in the Table of Construction Spending classified as Other Nonres Buildings.

Religious and Public Safety currently amounts to $12 billion/year. A 10% change in spending of $1.2 billion in a year would amount to only 0.2% change in all nonresidential buildings spending. This category doesn’t often change by 10% yr/yr, so it’s affect is very small.

 

Manufacturing

Manufacturing reached record high starts in 2014 and record spending in 2015, posting a 100% increase in new starts in 2014 that drove starting backlog and spending to new highs in 2015 and 2016. New starts declined 20%-30%/year for the next two years after the high in 2014 but then 2017 starts increased 27%. Now 2018 starts have increased by 18%, yet that is still 15% lower than 2014.

Starts in June came in at four times the average of all monthly starts in the last three years. October came in at three times the average. Those two months would add up to more than half of annual starts for any of the last three years. Some of these projects will still be contributing to spending in 2023.

Bklg 07e Mnfg

Starting Backlog remained equally high in 2015 and 2016, but then dropped 17% in 2017. Backlog dropped 17% in 2017 and actual spending dropped 13%. That was expected. What was unexpected is that 2017 posted another very strong year of new starts, up 27%. This will support a spending rebound in the future but not before a temporary drop in mid-year 2019.

Spending was forecast to fall in 2017 after peaking in 2015 from massive growth in new starts in 2014. Based on cash flows from starts, from April 2016 through the end of 2017 spending was expected to decline in 17 of 21 months. It did decline in 14 of those months. Over the next 30 months there are only six months have a forecast to decline, all of those between March and September 2019, all caused by uneven cash flows from very large projects either ending or pushing spending out to future years. This will hold down total spending in 2019. Although backlog for 2019 is up 40%, much of the cash flow from that will occur in 2020.

Manufacturing construction spending is forecast to reach $67 billion in 2018, $65 billion in 2019 and then jump 25% to $82 billion in 2020. Given the growth in backlog and some very long duration projects started recently, spending growth may increase again in 2021.

 

Non-building Infrastructure Spending

Non-building Infrastructure construction spending is forecast to increase 7.2% to $316 billion in 2018, 5.5% to $334 billion in 2019 and 9.9% to $367 billion in 2020. The forecast growth for 2019 will be supported by Transportation and Public Works but will be held down somewhat by Highway. Transportation terminals and rail project starts both increased more than 100% in 2017 and both are long duration projects types that will contribute spending for several years. Environmental Public Works project starts increased 20% in 2018 and boost spending in 2019 and 2020.

20e spend nonbldg

Non-building Infrastructure constant $ volume reached a high of $309 billion in 2015 and peaked at the all-time high of $311 billion in 2016, but then dropped to $295 billion in 2017. 2018 saw a return to $303 billion and 2019 is projected to reach $309 billion. Only twice before, 2008 and 2009, did Infrastructure exceed $300 billion. Constant $ spending or real volume growth has been within +/- 3% for the last 5 years.

21 nonbldg cur con

Non-building Infrastructure spending, always the most volatile sector, in mid-2017 dropped to 2013 lows. However, this short dip was predicted. Cash flow models of Infrastructure starts from the last several years predicted that dips in monthly spending would be caused by uneven project closeouts from projects that started several years ago, particularly in Power and Highway markets.

22 infra plot

Current backlog is at an all-time high, up 10%+ each of the last 3 years, and spending is expected to follow the increased cash flows from the elevated backlog. Transportation terminals new starts in 2017 jumped 120%. Rail project starts increased more than 100%. Starting backlog for all transportation work is the highest ever, up 100% in the last two years. Transportation spending is projected to increase 15-20%/year for the next two years.

No future growth is included from infrastructure stimulus and yet 2018 spending is projected to increase by 7%. 2019 and 2020 are forecast to increase 6% to 10%.

 

Power

Power spending as reported by U.S. Census includes infrastructure for all electric power generation plants and distribution, gas and LNG facilities and all pipelines. In the last year there were more than twenty $billion+ project starts and a dozen more projects valued over $500 million each. In 2015 pipeline starts represented less than 10% of all power starts. In 2018 year-to-date, pipelines are half of all power work started. In three years, pipeline work increased by more than $20 billion or 500%.

Starts, completions and pauses in work cause erratic movement in actual spending. Cash flow may be adversely impacted by very large projects ending or by the delay of large projects that started previously. A multi-billion-dollar nuclear power plant stopped work and large pipeline project delays after the start was recorded have adversely impacted the cash flow forecast. This impacted the spending forecast in 2017, which finished down 5%, 15% below initial projections, and again 2018 will finish 10% below initial projections for 2018 posted back in Nov. 2017.

Bklg 08 pwr.JPG

Although total power starts for 2018 are down 13%, electric / power generation is down 35% but gas/LNG and pipelines starts are up. Starts peaked in 2015-2016, but total in backlog reached a peak in 2018. However, much of this work is very long duration projects, so 2018 backlog will be providing spending at least through 2021. Spending could see 5% gains in 2019 but unless 2019 starts increase 2020 will experience a modest decline. Dodge is predicting 2019 starts will decline 3%.

Power construction spending is forecast to reach $102 billion in 2018, $109 billion in 2019 but then only $107 billion in 2020.

Power spending highlights one of the biggest shortfalls of judging expected performance based on year-to-date change. Notice in the 1st quarter of 2018, spending year-to-date (YTD) was down 8% to 10% from 2017. It is clear now that did not give a good indication of how 2018 would proceed. A better indication is provided by the trend line expected in the current year versus the trend line in the previous year. If they diverge, then early YTD changes will not give a clear indication of expected performance in the current year. An example follows. Note, SAAR data shows performance trend but cumulative NSA$ is needed to get YTD$.

YOY trend Power example 11-28-18.JPG

YOY Power trend data 11-28-18

Power posted the highest spending for 2017 early in the year, then declined in the 2nd half. In 2018, the beginning of the year posted the lowest rate of spending for the year, increased through June, then stayed higher in the 2nd half. The YTD percent growth compared to 2017 has been increasing throughout the year. Higher spending in the 2nd half 2018 compared to the lowest values of the year in late 2017 will boost year-to-date spending every month through year end. Although YTD spending through August is up only 2%, I expect the total for the year will finish up 6%. Even if power spending declines 1% per month for the remainder of the year it will still finish up 5% over 2017.

 

Highway/Street/Bridge

Highway starts hit an all-time high in 2017 and are forecast to climb another 8% in 2018. This model is predicting starts growth will slow or level off after 2018.

Bklg 09e HiWay

Starting backlog increased 30% in the last 3 years and will increase another 14% leading into 2019. This long duration backlog is going to provide for a large increase in spending but not until late 2020 and even more-so into 2021.

Spending in 2018 did not increase in tandem with backlog, because the share of spending within the year from projects that started 1 or 2 years before began to decline. In 2020 and 2021, the share of spending within the year from projects that started 2, 3 and 4 years before is increasing.

Highway construction spending is forecast to reach $92 billion in 2018, $93 billion and then jump to $105 billion in 2020. 2021 may see an increase of 10% in spending.

 

Transportation

Transportation starts have two main parts, Terminals and Rail. Some analysts include transportation in nonresidential buildings. That does not account that airports include not only land-side terminals but also air-side runway work and rail includes platforms and all railway right of way work, which includes massive civil engineering structures. About half of all transportation spending is rail work.

Terminals and rail starts reached record high in 2017, both up 120% after a 35% increase in 2016. Spending in 2018 is forecast to finish up more than 20%. Starting Backlog increased 22% in 2017 then jumped 95% in 2018. However, Transportation sample size of new starts potentially increased 30%, far more than any other market. A large portion of the 2017 increase in starts is expected to be change in sample size. This model adjusts 2017 starts down by 20%. Still, most of that backlog spending will occur in future years. Some of the project starts in 2016 and 2017 have an eight-year duration. In the last 24 months there have been sixteen $billion+ new project starts and seven $500million+ new starts.

Bklg 10e Trans

2018 total starts are 100% higher than any other year prior to 2017. Starting Backlog skyrocketed from $15 billion in 2016 to $55 billion for 2019. Backlog will support spending for several years to come. Keep in mind, when a $4 billion project first gets recorded in starts, that is the general contract. Many subcontracts will be awarded by the general contractor over the next few years.

Based on predicted cash flows from starts, spending is expected to increase at least into mid-2021.  2018-2019-2020 should see increases of 15% to 20%/year. Dodge is forecasting 2019 starts will stay close to the elevated levels of 2017 and 2018. I’m predicting starts in 2019 will decline from 2018 simply due to the huge volume of new work that started in the last two years. Even with that, backlog could set a record high in 2020.

Transportation construction spending is forecast to reach $55 billion in 2018, $62 billion in 2019 and $75 billion in 2020. Given the growth in backlog and some very long duration projects started recently, spending growth may increase again in 2021.

 

Environmental Public Works

Environmental Public Works includes sewerage projects, Water supply and Conservation, or Dams, water resource and river/harbor projects. New starts for all these type projects declined from 2014 through 2017. Then all showed gains in 2018 and the forecast is more gains in 2019. All of these projects are public spending and saw no real gains in spending from 2010 through 2017. With the projected increases in starts in 2018 and 2019, spending is now forecast to increase the next three years to a new high by 2020.

Bklg 11e PubWrks

Public Works construction spending is forecast to grow 9% to reach $43 billion in 2018, $46 billion in 2019 and $56 billion in 2020.

 

Communications

Starts data for communications is not regularly reported. Total starts for the year is always recorded well after year end. A moderate forecast is included for future starts growth the next two years.

Actual spending is erratic, up 10% one year down 3% the next then up 25% followed by 2% growth. 2018 should finish down 1% after a 12% gain in 2017. The forecast shows a 5% decline in 2019 and flat spending into 2020.

Bklg 12e Commun

Communication construction spending was up 12% in 2017 and finished at $24.8 billion The forecast for 2018 is down 1% to $24.5 billion. Expect $23 billion in 2019 and $23 billion in 2020.

 

For a PDF of this Nonresidential report 2019 Construct Econ Forecast – NONRES – Dec 2018 RVSD 12-6-18

 

Link to 2019 Construction Economic Forecast – Summary

2019 Construction Economic Forecast – Summary – Dec 2018

Construction Analytics 2019 Construction Economic Forecast

This Dec. 2018 Construction Economic Forecast analysis addresses New Construction Starts, Inflation, Cash Flow or distribution of construction work over time, Annual Backlog and Spending. New Starts is new work entering Backlog. Cash Flow gives the pattern of Spending. Inflation differentiates between Revenue and Volume. Backlog, which can be referenced to assess expected future Volume and Spending, provides an indication of when Volume occurs or in what year Revenues occur. Starts data is from Dodge Data & Analytics. Spending data is from the U.S. Census Bureau. Jobs data is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Inflation data is from the source labeled. Cash flow, Backlog and Inflation forecast data are developed internally. All data in this report is national level data. All forecast data is by Construction Analytics.

NOTE 12-6-18: Dodge Data and Analytics new construction starts for October, released 11-20-18, reached the 2nd highest seasonally adjusted annual rate ever, 2nd only to June 2018.  Most spending from these new starts will occur in 2020. U.S. Census construction spending for October posted large reductions to several months of residential spending. Construction Starts for October, the Dodge end-of-year report and October spending, all released between 11-21-18 and 12-3-18 significantly alter this analysis, by far most of the 2019 and 2020 changes are significant reductions in residential spending. See the 2019 Construction Economic Forecast – Nonresidential for detail on all nonresidential and non-building markets

This analysis was edited to include the most recent starts data and the U S Census October spending data.

Summary

Total of All construction spending is forecast to increase 6.0% to $1.321 trillion in 2018 and 1.5% to $1.341 trillion in 2019. Spending in 2020 is forecast to reach $1.426 trillion.

01e summary

Nonresidential Buildings construction spending is forecast to increase 5.8% to $444 billion in 2018, dip -0.2% to $443 billion in 2019 and climb 8.9% to $482 billion in 2020. Office (which includes data centers) and Amusement/Recreation support the 2019 but there is downward pressure from slowdowns or timing of cash flow in Manufacturing, Lodging, Healthcare and Educational. Educational, Healthcare, Recreation, Office and Manufacturing all support growth in 2020.

Residential construction spending for 2018 was recently revised down and starts for 2019 are expected flat to down slightly. The forecast is now for an increase of 5.6% to $562 billion in 2018, 0.5% to $564 billion in 2019 and 2.3% to $577 billion in 2020. Although residential spending is still increasing, growth has slowed to less than inflation. Real volume after inflation is declining.

Nonbuilding Infrastructure construction spending is forecast to increase 7.2% to $316 billion in 2018, 5.5% to $334 billion in 2019 and 9.9% to $367 billion in 2020. Transportation spending provides strong growth for the next three years from record new starts in 2017 and the 2nd best year of starts in 2018. Public Works had strong growth in 2018 starts and Highway starts hit a new high in 2018.

27e sector plot for cover

In July of the following year the spending data for the previous two years gets revised. Those revisions are always up, although some markets may increase while others decrease. So, even though the current forecast for 2018 is $1,321 trillion, a gain of 6.0%, that will most likely increase.

Dodge Data construction starts are initially anticipated to finish 2018 flat compared to 2017. However, starts are always revised upward in the following year. I expect revisions will show 2018 starts increased by 4% over 2017. Even with revisions, 2018 starts will post the slowest growth since 2011. Starts increased 84% in the period 2012-2017, residential 150% and nonresidential buildings 80%. This forecast includes only a total of 10% new starts growth for the 3-year period 2018-2020.

Starting backlog, currently at an all-time high, increased on average 10%/year the last three years. For 2019 starting backlog is forecast up 10% over 2018. 80% of all Nonresidential spending within the year will be generated from projects in starting backlog. Due to long duration jobs, 2019 nonresidential buildings starting backlog is up 50% in the last 4 years. Current indications are that 2019 backlog will be up 6%-8% across all sectors.

 

Construction Inflation Indices

When construction is very actively growing, total construction costs typically increase more rapidly than the net cost of labor and materials. In active markets overhead and profit margins increase in response to increased demand. These costs are captured only in Selling Price, or final cost indices.

General construction cost indices and Input price indices that don’t track whole building final cost do not capture the full cost of inflation on construction projects.

Revenue is spending but real volume is spending minus inflation. Outside of recession years, nonresidential buildings construction spending year over year growth dropped below 4% only SIX times in 50 years. The long-term average inflation is 3.75%. Every year that spending dropped below 4% growth, nonresidential buildings real volume declined.

To differentiate between Revenue and Volume you must use actual final cost indices, otherwise known as selling price indices, to properly adjust the cost of construction over time.

Construction Analytics Nonresidential buildings inflation forecast for 2018 is 4.9%. Current reliable inflation forecasts range from 4.7% to 5.6%. Spending needs to grow at a minimum of 4.7% just to stay ahead of construction inflation. Inflation in this sector has been at 4% or higher the last four years.

Selling Price is whole building actual final cost. Selling price indices track the final cost of construction, which includes, in addition to costs of labor and materials and sales/use taxes, general contractor and sub-contractor margins or overhead and profit.

Construction Analytics Building Cost Index, Turner Building Cost Index, Rider Levett Bucknall Cost Index, Beck Cost Index and Mortenson Cost Index are all examples of whole building cost indices that measure final selling price of nonresidential buildings only. The individual average annual growth for all these indices over the past 4-years is 4.6%/year.

Producer Price Index (PPI) for Construction Inputs is an example of a commonly referenced construction cost index that does not represent whole building costs. The PPI tracks material cost at the producer level, not prices or bids at the contractor as-built level.

Engineering News Record Building Cost Index (ENRBCI) and RSMeans Cost Index are examples of commonly used indices that DO NOT represent whole building costs yet are commonly used to adjust project costs. The ENRBCI tracks a limited market basket of labor and materials. RSMeans holds the quantity of materials and labor for a building constant. Neither index addresses contractor margins. However, they are useful in that they also publish input cost indices from many cities. This provides a reference to compare those cities to the national average, but still, only for a limited basket of labor and materials. Neither gives any indication of the level of market activity in an area.

Residential construction saw a slowdown in inflation to only +3.5% in 2015. However, the average inflation for six years from 2013 to 2018 is 5.7%. It peaked at 8% in 2013. It climbed back over 5% for 2016 and currently is near 5.5% in 2018. Anticipate national average residential construction inflation for 2018 at least 5.5 % to 6%.

Nonresidential Buildings indices have averaged 4% to 4.5% over the last five years and have reached over 5% in the last three years. Nonresidential buildings inflation totaled 18% in the last four years. My forecast shows nonresidential buildings spending in 2018 will reach the fastest rate of growth in three years, which historically has led to accelerated inflation.

There are clear signs of increasing construction activity and a tightening construction labor market.  The national construction unemployment rate recently posted below 4%, the lowest on record with data back to 2000. During the previous expansion it hit a low average of 5%. During the recession it went as high as 25%. The average has been below 5% for the last 18 months. An unemployment rate this low potentially signifies labor shortages. The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) for construction is at or near all-time highs. A tight labor market will keep labor costs climbing at the fastest rate in years.  Labor shortages cause contractors to pay premiums over and above normal wage increases to keep workers from leaving. Some premiums accelerate labor cost inflation but are not recorded in published wage data.

Recent news of tariffs has extended beyond just steel. I calculated a 25% tariff on raw steel would add 1% to the cost of nonresidential steel buildings. Hi-rise residential buildings, if building is structural steel, would fall in this category. Wood framed residential impact would be small. A 25% increase in mill steel could add 0.65% to final cost of building just for the structure. It adds 1.0% for all steel in a building. If your building is not a steel structure, steel still potentially adds 0.35%. 

Anticipate national average construction inflation for nonresidential buildings for 2018 and 2019, including steel impact, of 4.25% to 5.5%, rather than the long-term growth average of 4%. Adjust for any other yet unknown tariffs that may hit after Jan 1, 2019.

In the following plot, Construction Analytics Building Cost Index annual percent change for nonresidential buildings is plotted as a line against a bar chart background of the range of all other nonresidential building inflation indices. Usually the lows are formed by market basket input indices while the highs are formed by other selling price indices.

02 inflation bars

As noted above, some reliable nonresidential selling price indexes have been over 4% since 2014. Currently most selling price indices are over 5% inflation in 2018. Notice during that same period seldom did any input indices climbed above 3%.

03 inflation pct

Every index as published has its own base year = 100, generally the year the index was first created, and they all vary. All indices here are converted to the same base year, 2017 = 100, for ease of comparison. No data is changed from the original published indices.

04 inflation index

Non-building Infrastructure indices are far more market specific than any other type of index. Reference specific Infrastructure indices rather than any average.

These links point to comprehensive coverage of the topic inflation and are recommended reading.

Click Here for Link to a 20-year Table of 25 Indices

Click Here for Cost Inflation Commentary – text on Current Inflation

 

Current$ vs Constant$

Comparing current $ spending to previous year spending does not give any indication if business volume is increasing. The inflation factor is missing. If spending is increasing at 5%/year at a time when inflation is 4%/year, real volume is increasing by only 1%.

The current Nonresidential buildings forecast of spending growth at 6.0% for 2018 would suggest that after inflation, nonresidential buildings construction volume is growing slightly.  So expect volume growth in 2018, but next year 4.3% inflation and no spending growth is signaling a volume decline in 2019.

Nonresidential spending increased 43% since 2010, but there was 30% inflation. Real nonresidential volume since 2010 has increased by only 12%. Nonresidential jobs increased by 27% during that period, 15% greater than volume growth.

Residential spending increased by 110% since 2010, but after inflation, real residential volume increased by only 57%. Jobs increased by only 37%, 20% short of volume growth.

When comparing inflation adjusted constant dollars, 2018 spending will still be lower than all years from 1998 through 2007. In 2005 constant $ volume reached a peak at $1,450 billion. At current rates of growth, we would not eclipse the previous high before 2022.

05 current constant

Spending in current $ is 14% higher than the previous 2006 high spending.

Volume after adjusting for inflation is still 14% lower than the previous 2005 high volume.

 

Jobs and Volume

The period 2011-2017 shows both spending and jobs growth at or near record highs.

A spending forecast of 6.6%+ in 2018, or an increase of $83 billion in construction spending, demands a few words on jobs growth. Construction requires about 5000 workers for every added $1 billion in construction “volume”. But construction jobs growth seems to closely follow growth in spending. Construction jobs have increased by 400,000 in a year only four times in the last 50 years, each time accompanied by one of the four highest spending growth increases in 50 years. However, $80 billion in added spending is not the same as $80 billion in volume, and jobs needed is based on volume.

Although spending will increase 6.6%, construction inflation has been hovering near 4.5% for the last five years. Real volume growth in 2018 after inflation is expected to be near 2% or only $26 billion. That would mean the need, if there are no changes in productivity, is to add only about 130,000 additional jobs in 2018, a rate of growth that is well within reach. That is less than the average jobs growth for the last seven years.

Construction added 1,400,000 jobs in the last 5 years, an average of 280,000/year. The only time in history that exceeded jobs growth like that was the period 1993-99 with the highest 5-year growth ever of 1,483,000 jobs. That same 1993-99 period had the previous highest 5-year spending and volume growth going back to 1984-88.

Total spending increased 60%+ since 2010, but with 30% inflation. Real total volume since 2010 has increased by only about 30%. Jobs also increased by 30%, in balance with need. But the results are much different for Residential than Nonresidential.

Nonresidential spending increased 50% since 2010 with 35% inflation. Nonresidential volume since 2010 has increased by only 15%. Jobs increased by 27%, 12% in excess of volume growth.

Residential spending increased by 125% since 2010, but after 40% inflation, real residential volume increased by 85%. Jobs increased by only 40%, 45% short of volume growth.

Residential construction labor cannot be directly compared to residential volume because

  • Some residential high-rise jobs, for example structure, are performed by firms whose primary activity is commercial construction. Those jobs are classified as nonresidential.
  • Buildings that are multi-use commercial retail and residential, even lo-rise, may be built by contractors whose firms are classified nonresidential labor. The construction spending would be broken out to residential and nonresidential, but the labor would not.
  • Some residential immigrant labor is not counted

For these reasons, it is best to simplify comparisons of spending activity to total labor.

For more on Jobs see Construction Jobs and Residential Construction Jobs Shortages

 

New Construction Starts

New construction starts for the six months in the 1st half 2018 reached an all-time high.

New Construction Starts three-month average for May-Jun-Jul is $840 billion, all-time high.

Year-to-date (YTD) 2018 starts are currently reported as up only 2% from 2017, but 2017 starts through September have already been revised up by 9%, 10% in nonresidential buildings, 16% in non-buildings and 3% in residential. 2018 starts will not be revised until next year. Revisions have always been up.

Revisions for the last 10 years averaged more than +7%/yr., with most of the upward revision in nonresidential buildings. Revisions to nonresidential buildings have been greater than 10%/year for the last 7 years. Therefore, 2018 starts growth is very likely under-reported.

All construction starts data in this report references Dodge Data & Analytics Starts Data.

Dodge releases its first forecast of next year’s starts every year in the 4th quarter. Last year the first forecast for 2018 was for starts to increase 3% to $765 billion. 2018 starts, based on data as of September, could reach $806 billion, but at first appearing to show no gain from 2017. That’s because 2017 has already been revised up by $50 billion. After 2018 revisions are posted next year, 2018 starts could reach $830-$840 billion. Dodge forecast 2019 starts at $808 billion, no change from 2018. This will be subject to two upward revisions.

  • Previous year starts always later get revised upwards. Therefore, current year starts YTD growth is always understated. This analysis compensates for that.
  • New starts will generate record high starting backlog for every sector in 2019.
  • Even a low forecast for starts in 2019 produces record backlog for 2020.

For nonresidential buildings spending, long duration jobs can sometimes have a 5 to 6-year schedule. On average most years have at least some projects start that will be under construction for 4 years. For an entire year’s worth of starts, approximately 20% of the spending occurs in the year started, 50% in the next year, 25% in the third year and only 5% in the fourth year or later year. Residential starts contribute spending into the third year. This means that nonresidential spending growth in 2019 is still being affected by starts from 2016 and residential growth from starts in 2017. This also means that nonresidential spending growth in 2019 is still being affected by starts from 2016.

The next two plots show the 3-month moving average and trend line of starts for Residential and Nonresidential Buildings. Starts can be erratic from month to month. The trend line gives a better impression of how starts impact spending. It is the rate of change in starts cash flows that provides a predicting tool for spending.

06 starts two plots

The plot below is an index. The plot shows greater accuracy in the forecast when the slope of the predicted cash flow and actual spending plot lines move in the same direction. It’s not the spread between the lines that gives any indication. If the slope of the lines is the same, then the cash flow accurately predicted the spending.

The light green line for nonresidential buildings spending estimated from starts cash flow shows smooth spending, even though actual monthly starts are erratic (see nonres bldgs plot shown above). The actual spending often follows close to the pattern estimated from cash flows.

07 starts index

Starts are sometimes misinterpreted in common industry forecasting articles. Starts dollar values represent a survey of about 50% to 60% of industry activity, therefore Starts dollar values cannot ever be used directly to indicate the volume of spending. Also, Starts do not directly indicate changes in spending per month or per year. Only by including an expected duration for all Starts and producing a forecast Cash Flow from Starts data can the expected pattern of spending be developed. Finally, it is the rate of change in Starts Cash Flows that gives an indication of the rate of change in spending.

 

Starting Backlog

Nonresidential Buildings starting backlog at the beginning of 2018 reached an all-time high. For nonresidential buildings this backlog will contribute spending until the end of 2021. 2019 Backlog is forecast to increase 8%. For purposes of this analysis, I’ve set only moderate or low increases in starts for 2020 and 2021, so this forecast may hold down the future backlog and spending forecast. However, backlog leading into 2019 is up 70% in 5 years.

08e nonres bklg

Starting Backlog is the Estimate-to-Complete (ETC) value of all projects under contract at the beginning of a period. Projects in starting backlog could have started last month or last year or several years ago.

  • 75%-80% of all Nonresidential Buildings spending within the year will be generated from projects in starting backlog.
  • 80%-85% of all Non-Building Infrastructure spending within the year will be generated from projects in starting backlog.
  • 70% of All Residential spending within the year is generated from new starts, but this is weighted because 85% of all residential work is short duration single family and renovation work.
  • 65% on long duration Multifamily Residential spending within the year will be generated from projects in starting backlog.

09 start bklg plot

Non-building Infrastructure starting backlog at the beginning of 2018 reached an all-time high. Some of this is very long-term work that will contribute spending until the end of 2025. In fact, more than half of all spending in 2019 comes from projects that started prior to Jan 2018. 2019 Backlog is forecast to increase 10%. Backlog is up 45% in 5 years but is up 50% in just the last 3 years.

10e infra bklg

Multifamily residential has a longer duration and a greater percentage of spending comes from backlog. But, due to the shorter duration of projects, about 75% of single family and residential renovation spending within the year is generated from new starts. Unlike nonresidential, backlog does not contribute nearly as much short-term residential spending within the year.

11e Cashflow Forecast RSDN ALL 12-1-18

 

Cash Flow

Simply referencing total new starts or backlog does not give an indication of spending within the next calendar year. Projects, from start to completion, can have significantly different duration. Whereas a residential project may have a duration of 6 to 12 months, an office building could have a duration of 18 to 24 months and a billion-dollar infrastructure project could have a duration of 3 to 4 years. New starts within any given year could contribute spending spread out over several years. Cash flow totals of all jobs can vary considerably from month to month, are not only driven by new jobs starting but also by old jobs ending, and are heavily dependent on the type, size and duration of jobs.

Cash flow from all starts still in backlog supports a 2018 spending forecast of $1,321 billion, a spending increase of 6.0% over 2017. The forecast for 2019, based on a minimal increase in starts, is $1,341 billion, an increase of only 1.5% over 2018. Dodge initial November 2018 forecast for 2019 construction starts is for $808 billion, no gain over 2018. However, subsequent revisions may increase that a few percent.

The following table illustrates the difference between Starts and Cash flow. It shows Manufacturing Bldgs. projects in backlog as of October 2018 and predicted starts in 2018 through 2021. Note there are sometimes vast differences between amounts of Starts, whether already in Backlog at beginning of year or New Starts within the year, and Cash Flow from Backlog and New Starts.

12e mnfg bklg cashflow

Cash Flow modeling predicted a huge decline of -16% in manufacturing spending in 2017. This was in stark contrast to seven other economic analysts who predicted spending would be between -7% and +7%, for an average of +0.4% as reported in the January 2017 AIA Consensus. Manufacturing spending actually ended the year at -13.0%. Obviously, there is no correlation between a 25% increase in new starts within the year and a predicted -16% drop in spending. The actual -13% drop in 2017 spending reflects a return to normal after an unusually large volume of spending in 2015 and 2016 that was generated by a record volume of starts in 2014.

Note that new manufacturing starts were up 27% in 2017 and could be up 18% in 2018, yet 2018 spending is forecast to increase only 1.5%. This is due to projects that started several years ago but are now coming to an end. They are dropping out of the monthly cash flows and holding down 2018 spending even though starts have been up substantially for two years. This substantial volume of new starts in 2017 and 2018 will be providing a boost to spending in 2020 and 2021.

 

Spending

Total of All construction spending is forecast to increase 6.0% to $1.321 trillion in 2018 and 1.5% to $1.341 trillion in 2019 and 6.3% to $1.426 trillion in 2020.

13e spend sectors

Construction spending is strongly influenced by the pattern of continuing or ending cash flows from the previous two to three years of construction starts. Current month/month, year/year or year-to-date trends in starts often do not indicate the immediate trend in spending.

The following table clearly shows there is not a correlation between starts in any year with spending in either the current or the following year. The practice of using construction starts directly to predict spending can be very misleading in an industry that relies on data for predictive analysis to plan the future. Not only does it not predict the volume of spending in the following year, it does not even consistently predict the direction spending will take, up or down, in the following year. It’s a false indicator and it’s not a good use of data.

14 spend vs starts

 

Residential Buildings Spending

Residential construction spending for 2018 was recently revised down and starts for 2019 are expected flat to down slightly. The forecast is now for an increase of 5.6% to $562 billion in 2018, 0.5% to $564 billion in 2019 and 2.3% to $577 billion in 2020.

Residential spending in 2018 slows after six years of growth all over 10%/year. Average spending growth the last seven years is 12%/year. Although Residential 2019 construction spending is still increasing slightly 0.5%, growth has slowed to less than inflation of 5%. Therefore real 2019 residential volume after inflation is forecast to decline by 4%+, the largest real volume decline since 2009. In 2018 residential spending increased 5.6%, but after inflation real volume increased only a fraction of a percent.

Residential spending in 2018 is 50% single family, 13% multi-family and 37% improvements. In 2011, improvements were 48% of residential spending.

Single Family Residential spending is more dependent on new starts within the most recent 12 months than on backlog from previous starts.

11e Cashflow Forecast RSDN ALL 12-1-18

Total starts for the last 6 months are the highest since 2006, but % growth has slowed considerably. New starts in 2017 which initially posted only 2% growth have already been revised up to 4%. I expect that to be revised up to 5%. Growth of 7% is expected for 2018. Slower growth is now expected after 5 years (2012-2016) of starts increasing at an average 20%/year. Multi-Family Residential spending is more dependent on backlog.

15e Cashflow Forecast RSDN MF ONLY 12-1-18

Residential spending hits a 12-year high in 2018. Residential spending reached a current $ peak of $630 billion in 2005. 2018 pending is still 10% below that peak. In constant $, adjusted for inflation, all years from 1998 through 2007 were higher than 2018. In constant $, 2018 spending is still 27% below the 2005 peak.

16 res nonres plot

 

Nonresidential Buildings Spending

Nonresidential Buildings construction spending is forecast to increase 5.8% to $444 billion in 2018, dip -0.2% to $443 billion in 2019 and climb 8.9% to $482 billion in 2020. Office (which includes data centers) and Amusement/Recreation support the 2019 but there is downward pressure from slowdowns or timing of cash flow in Manufacturing, Lodging, Healthcare and Educational. Educational, Healthcare, Recreation, Office and Manufacturing all support growth in 2020.

17e spend nonres bldgs

18 nonres bldgs plot.JPG

Nonresidential buildings construction spending in constant $ (inflation adjusted $) reached as high as $440 billion in 2017 but averaged only $419 billion in 2017. In 2018 it will reach a high of $430 billion but average only $424 billion. The yearly average recently peaked at $431 billion in 2016. Constant $ spending or real volume growth shows all years from 1996 through 2010 had higher volume than the 2018 forecast. Volume reached a peak $536 billion in 2000 and went over $500 billion again in 2008. In constant $ 2018 is still 20% below that 2000 peak.

19 nonres cur con

 

Non-building Infrastructure Spending

Non-building Infrastructure construction spending is forecast to increase 7.2% to $316 billion in 2018, 5.5% to $334 billion in 2019 and 9.9% to $367 billion in 2020. The forecast growth for 2019 will be supported by Transportation and Public Works but will be held down somewhat by Highway. Transportation terminals and rail project starts both increased more than 100% in 2017 and both are long duration projects types that will contribute spending for several years. Environmental Public Works had strong 20% growth in 2018 starts and Highway starts hit a new high in 2018.

20e spend nonbldg

Non-building Infrastructure construction spending in constant $ (inflation adjusted $) reached $311 billion in 2016, an all-time high, but then dropped to $296 billion in 2017. In 2018 it will reach $302 billion. Constant $ spending or real volume growth has been within +/- 3% for the last 5 years.

21 nonbldg cur con

Non-building Infrastructure spending, always the most volatile sector, in mid-2017 dropped to 2013 lows. However, this short dip was predicted. Cash flow models of Infrastructure starts from the last several years predicted that dips in monthly spending would be caused by uneven project closeouts from projects that started several years ago, particularly in Power and Highway markets.

22 infra plot

Current backlog is at an all-time high, up 10%+ each of the last 3 years, and spending is expected to follow the increased cash flows from the elevated backlog. Transportation terminals new starts in 2017 jumped 120%. Rail project starts increased more than 100%. Starting backlog for all transportation work is the highest ever, up 100% in the last two years. Transportation spending is projected to increase 20-25%/year for the next two years.

No future growth is included from infrastructure stimulus and yet 2018 spending is projected to increase by 8%. 2019 and 2020 are forecast to increase 5% to 6%.

 

Public Infrastructure and Public Institutional

Less than 60% of all Non-building Infrastructure spending, about $170 billion, is publicly funded. That public subset of work averages growth of less than $10 billion/year.

About 25% of all Nonresidential Buildings spending, about $110 billion, is publicly funded, mostly Educational. Nonresidential buildings spending makes up almost 40% of Public spending.

  • Infrastructure = $300 billion, ~25% of all construction spending.
  • Infrastructure is about 60% public, 40% private. In 2005 it was 70% public.
  • Public Infrastructure = $170 billion. Private Infrastructure = $130 billion.
  • Power and Communications are privately funded infrastructure.
  • Nonresidential Buildings is 25% public (mostly institutional), 75% private.
  • Educational, Healthcare and Public Safety are Public Nonres Institutional Bldgs
  • Public Commercial construction is not included.
  • Public Institutional = $100 billion, mostly Education ($70b).

23 pub prv spend.JPG

 

Public Infrastructure + Public Institutional = $280 billion, 23% of total construction spending.

Public Infrastructure + Institutional average growth is $12 billion/year. It has never exceeded $30 billion in growth in a single year.

See also Publicly Funded Construction

See also Down the Infrastructure Rabbit Hole

24 pub prv share

Public Spending

Total public spending for 2018 is projected to finished up 9.5% at $320 billion. Every major public market is projected to finish up for 2018. By far, the largest Public spending increases for 2018 are Highway, Transportation, Sewer and Waste Disposal and Water Supply.

25e pub prv sectors

The two largest markets contributing to public spending are Highway/Bridge (32% of total public spending) and Educational (25%), together accounting for nearly 60% of all public construction spending. At #3, Transportation is only about 10% of public spending. Environmental Public Works combined makes up almost 15% of public spending, but that consists of three markets, Sewage/Waste Water, Water Supply and Conservation. Office, Healthcare, Public Safety and Amusement/Recreation each account for about 3%.

Educational is 80% public, Transportation 70%, Amusement/Rec 50% and Healthcare 20% public. Power is about 6% public, along with few other smaller shares.

Public spending hit a 4-year low in mid-2017. It has been increasing since then and is now near an all-time high. I’m expecting to see strong growth through 2020.

Due to long duration job types, 2018 starting backlog is up 30% in the last 3 years. In 2018, 40% of all spending comes from jobs that started before 2017. Leading 2018 growth are Educational (+15%) and Transportation (+35%), with a combined total forecast 20% growth in public spending.

Current levels of backlog and predicted new starts gives a projection that Public Non-building Infrastructure spending will reach an all-time high in 2018 and again in 2019.

26e pub bklg

For a Full Formatted PDF of this Report click

2019 Construction Economic Forecast – Summary – Dec 2018

 

Link to the 2019 Nonresidential Forecast Report

2019 Construction Economic Forecast – Nonresidential – Nov 2018

Reliability of Predicted Construction Forecast Data

10-2-18

It’s not uncommon that clients ask for a forecast of construction spending for the next three years. It is less common that forecasters explain the reliability of the data in a forecast.

To predict the reliability of the data in a forecast, several assumptions must be stated.

Cash flow curves are generated to predict the spending pattern. These are assumed to be reliable. The cash flows are generated from monthly data releases for New Construction Starts. The Starts data is assumed reliable. However, major sector data is revised in the following month and again in the same month the following year. These revisions are incorporated when released, but nonresidential building markets revisions are not posted at the same frequency. That data becomes available in the 4th quarter report of the following year. It is updated at that time. The analytical methods are assumed to be reliable.

The primary driver of the spending forecast is New Construction Starts. Care must be taken to use Starts properly. Starts are sometimes misinterpreted in common industry forecasting articles. Starts dollar values represent a survey of about 50% to 70% of industry activity and that varies by market type, therefore Starts dollar values cannot ever be used directly to indicate the volume of spending. Also, Starts do not directly indicate changes in spending per month or per year. Projected starts data cannot be used to directly forecast expected construction volume. Only by including an expected duration for all Starts and producing a forecast Cash Flow from Starts data can the expected pattern of future backlog and spending be developed.

For short duration residential spending, single-family residential and renovations work, approximately 75% of the spending occurs in the current year and 20% in the following year.

For long duration residential spending, typical of multifamily residential, approximately 50%-55% of the spending occurs in the current year, 35%-40% in the next year and only 5%-10% occurs two years out.

For nonresidential buildings spending long duration jobs can sometimes have a 5 to 6-year schedule. On average most years have at least some projects start that will be under construction for 4 years. For an entire year’s worth of starts, approximately 20% of the spending occurs in the year started, 50% in the next year, 25% in the third year and only 5% in the fourth year or later year. This also means that nonresidential spending growth in 2019 is still being affected by starts from 2016.

Non-building Infrastructure spending has many of the longest duration jobs. Some job starts in the last two years have 6 to 8-year duration. Many years have at least some projects start that will be under construction for 5 years. For the entire year of starts, approximately 15% of the spending occurs in the year started, 40% in the next year, 33% in the third year and 12% in the fourth year or later year. This also means that non-building Infrastructure spending growth in 2019 is still being affected by jobs that started in 2015.

  • 75%-80% of all Nonresidential Buildings spending within the year will be generated from projects in starting backlog.
  • 80%-85% of all Non-Building Infrastructure spending within the year will be generated from projects in starting backlog.
  • 70% of All Residential spending within the year is generated from new starts, but this is weighted because 85% of all residential work is short duration single family and renovation work.
  • 65% on long duration Multifamily Residential spending within the year will be generated from projects in starting backlog.

Multifamily residential has a longer duration and a much greater percentage of spending comes from backlog. But, due to the shorter duration of projects, about 75% of single family and residential renovation spending within the year is generated from new starts. Unlike nonresidential, backlog does not contribute nearly as much short-term residential spending within the year. For that reason, the reliability of SF and Reno residential work drops more quickly than all other types.

For any future forecast month, the most information is in hand the month before. For example, in the month of October the forecast for November includes a projected cash flow which is based 96%-98% on actual projects. Only the small amount from new projects that start in November is predicted. Assessing the amount of actual data versus the amount of predicted data gives an indication of how much weight can be placed on the forecast. Obviously, the balance of actual versus predicted data changes the further out in time we view the forecast.

Reliability of Data 10-2-18.JPG

From the current date, the forecast for the next month includes 95%-98% actual data. Only the cash flow curve and the predicted duration affects the reliability of the forecasts and even that is minor.

Twelve months from the current date, the forecast is more dependent on predicted starts and therefore the percentage of actual data drops. The Non-building Infrastructure forecast includes 85% actual data. The Nonresidential Buildings forecast includes 80% actual data. The Residential forecast includes 30%-40% actual data.

Two years out from the current date, the forecast is far more dependent on predicted starts. The Non-building Infrastructure forecast includes 45% actual data. The Nonresidential Buildings forecast includes 30% actual data. The actual data in a residential forecast drops to near zero with very little remaining in backlog and that only from multifamily.

Three years out from the current date, the forecast is near entirely dependent on predicted starts. The Non-building Infrastructure forecast includes about 15% actual data. The Nonresidential Buildings forecast is approaching zero. The residential forecast has already be reliant on predicted data for the past year.

To put this in perspective, let’s assume a Jan 1, 2019 forecast which includes all actual construction starts through Dec 2018. We’ll look at the forecast for 2020 and 2021. Also, we’ll base the volume of actual data on each sector’s actual data and its share of total construction spending. Non-building Infrastructure has the most actual data long term, but it is the smallest share of total construction. Residential has the least long-term data but is the largest share of total construction.

In my Jan. 1, 2019 forecast, the forecast for the year 2020, the period only 12 to 24 months out, actual data drops from 60% at the start of the year to 20% at the end. So, the 2020 forecast includes only an average of 40% actual data. In the forecast for the year 2021, the period from 24 to 36 months out, the actual data drops from 20% to 4% over the course of the year. Very little actual data is influencing the forecast.

Three years out from the current date the reliability of the forecast is dependent on the economic outlook of the developer and the predictive methodology of the analytic tools.

It’s good to know, when you are looking at a forecast that projects three years out past the current year, there is nearly no actual data in that forecast. It’s all predicted.

June Construction Starts Reach New Highs

7-25-18

New construction starts, posted today by Dodge Data & Analytics, measured in current dollars, came in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $896,000 million, up 11% from May. May, originally posted at +15% over April, was revised up 3.5%.

2nd qtr increased 7.5% from 1st qtr., and 1st half increased 4.5% from the previous 6 months.

The June SAAR (seasonally adjusted) amount of $896,000 million is the highest on record. However, in constant $, adjusted for inflation, there were a few months from 2004 through 2006 that would still be slightly higher. After revisions, it will likely be higher.

Year-to-date starts through June total $396,000 million, 1% higher than the same six months of 2017, but that amount is not as low as first comparison would indicate. 2017 starts through June have already been revised up by 14%, up about 20% in nonresidential and 5% in residential. 2018 starts will be revised again next year and revisions have always been up. Revisions in previous years have averaged more than +7%/yr. for the last 5 years, with most of the upward revision in nonresidential. Therefore, the potential that 2018 YTD gains at a later date will increase vs 2017 is expected.

2017 starts final, once all revisions are posted, could reach close to $800 billion.

New starts data is a sampling of project starts, representing about 60% of total work volume. Actual starts dollars cannot be used directly to represent spending. However, tracking the rate of change in predicted cash flow from starts allows to predict the rate of change in spending.

From Sept’17 through Jun’18 new construction starts reached the highest monthly average since 2004 and are now just below the all-time high.

Residential starts average for the 6 months Jan-Jun 2018 is the highest since 2006. The 1st 6 months of 2018 is up 10% from the prior 6 months.

Non-building infrastructure starts for June are down 28% from May, but that is not particularly newsworthy, because May had an unusually high amount of starts. May included almost $8 billion of pipeline, rail and sewerage projects starts, 3x normal, while June settled back to normal.  June Infrastructure starts are still higher than the average of the previous 6 months. The average Infrastructure starts for Apr-May-Jun is the highest since Q1 2015 when massive new starts for energy plants drove Infrastructure starts to all-time highs. Starts may finish the year close to the same as 2017, but, if slightly higher, could still be the best year of starts on record. The growth in Infrastructure starts will drive Non-building spending to record highs in 2018 through 2020.

Starts 2008-2018 nonbldg 7-26-18

Nonresidential buildings starts in June reached $402 billion, nudging up against the all-time constant $ high from 2008. In fact, in un-adjusted dollars current $, June 2018 starts reached a new high. Manufacturing starts are double the amount from same period in 2017 and Amusement/Recreation starts are triple last year. The only nonresidential market that is lower year-to-date is retail stores. Adjusted for inflation, Jan 2008, by a few percent, is still the best ever for nonresidential buildings starts and spending.

Starts 2011-2018 nonres bldgs 7-25-18

The plot above shows 3mo moving average and trend line for Nonresidential Buildings Starts. Starts can be erratic from month to month. The trend line gives a better impression of how starts will impact spending.

The plot below is an index. The plot shows accuracy when the predicted cash flow and actual spending plot lines move in the same direction.

The light green line, spending estimated from starts cash flow, shows smooth spending, even though actual monthly starts are erratic (see nonres bldgs plot shown above). The actual spending often follows pretty close to the pattern as that estimated from cash flows.

Starts CF 2015-2018 7-25-18

It’s notable that new construction starts through June are up 1% from 2017. When the 2018 forecast was first issued last November, 2017 starts were predicted to finish the year at $742 billion. The original forecast for 2018 starts growth predicted starts would increase 3% over 2017 to a 2018 total of $765 billion. Well, the current total for 2017 is now $780 billion. Since November, the 2017 base has been revised up by  almost $40 billion. 2017 starts could finish close to $800 billion, more than double the original forecast % growth. And yet, the YTD total for 2018 is still 1% above that revised value.

Starts in both 2017 and 2018 are stronger than expected just 6 months ago. The current SAAR monthly $ of starts is 10% higher than anticipated just 6 months ago.

Construction spending is up year-to-date through May in every sector. Only Manufacturing and Power markets are down YTD, but not enough to drag the sectors negative. Both markets are expected to finish the year up. (Religious market is down, but represents only 0.2% of spending).

Cash flow from all starts still in backlog supports a 2018 spending forecast of $1,330 billion, a spending increase of 6.6% over 2017.

New Construction Starts May 2018 Near All-Time High

6-20-18

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.

Starts 2011-2018 nonbldg 6-23-18 Starts 2011-2018 nonres bldgs 6-23-18

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.

Backlog incld Res Starts 2005-2019 6-23-18

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

Construction Economic Activity Notes 4-25-18

4-25-18

Brief notes on spending, starts, backlog, jobs and inflation from March and April tweets.

Nonresidential construction spending is not decelerating in 2018. Will see best growth since 14% in 2015.

Residential construction spending is slowing to +7% growth in 2018, after 6 consecutive years of strong growth averaging 13%/year.

Non-building Infrastructure forecast growth of 8% in 2018, potential to hit a new all-time high due to very large projects in Power and Transportation.

Public construction spending in 2018 is forecast to reach $307 billion, an increase of 8% over 2017, the best growth in 10 years. Educational and Transportation will contribute equally and together account for more than half of the Public spending growth in 2018.

In Oct 2016 and again in Feb 2017, I forecast Manufacturing spending would fall 13% in 2017 after hitting peak spending in 2015 from massive growth in new starts in 2014. At that time, the AIA consensus forecast (average of seven analysts) was that spending would increase +0.4%. By July the consensus had been revised to average -6.6%. I updated my forecast to -11.8%. Based on cash flows, from April 2016 through the end of 2017 I expected spending to decline in 17 of 21 months. It declined in 14 of those months. Manufacturing spending finished 2017 down 11.9%.

In Fall 2017, I predicted Manufacturing construction spending would increase +9% in 2018. However, through March, total construction starts for Manufacturing over the last 12 months would count as the 2nd highest year on record. Therefore I’ve recently revised my forecast up to +13% spending in 2018. I’m now expecting double digit % spending growth in both 2018 & 2019. The January 2018 AIA consensus estimate is for +2.8% increase in 2018 spending and +5.2% in 2019. Some analysts predict 2018 spending will decline. My data shows increases in starts and backlog indicate large gains.

Nonresidential Buildings new starts are up 55% in four years. 2018 starting backlog is the highest ever, up 24% in two years.

Nonresidential Bldgs 2018 starting backlog is 55% higher than at the start of 2014, the beginning of the current growth cycle. Spending is UP 38% with 2018 spending forecast up 9%. Institutional accounts for 52% of 2018 construction spending growth, Commercial 27%, Industrial 21%.

80% of all nonresidential buildings construction spending forecast in 2018 is already in backlog projects at the start of the year.

New Construction Starts are booming (need to look past the mo/mo and ytd)

  • Residential – 2 highest qtrs since 2006 in last 12 months
  • Nonres Bldgs – 3 highest qtrs since Q1 2008 in last 15 months
  • Nonbldg Infra – highet qtr since Q1 2015 peak in last 6 months.

Construction Starts data is regularly misinterpreted in common industry forecasting articles. Starts do not directly indicate changes in spending. A Forecast Cash Flow from Starts gives an indication of the rate of change in spending.

Educational new construction starts total from the last five months of 2017 posted the highest 5mo total starts in at least seven years, 13% higher than the next best 5mo. Jan 2018 monthly spending up 12% from 2017 mid-year low.

Healthcare construction starts have quietly increased to a record high over the last two years, up 30% for the 12 months through August 2017 vs the previous 12 months. Spending will increase slowly.

Amusement/Rec construction starts avg of +15%/yr for 5yrs, up 30% in 2016, 5% in 2017. In last 6mo, Aug 2017 to Jan 2018, four very large billion$+ projects started, almost a year’s worth of new starts in 6mo. Backlog indicates 15%-20% spending increases for 2018 and 2019.

In 2010, Warehouse new construction starts were only 1/3 of Store new starts. In 2018, Warehouse starts will be 50% greater than Store starts. Warehouse starts have increased between 20%-40%/year for seven years and are now five times greater than in 2010.

Lodging starting backlog up 13% for 2018, having already averaged increases of 30%/yr since 2015. Starting backlog jumped from $7 bil/yr in 2014 to $17 bil/yr in 2018, supported similar spending growth. Although 2016 was peak starts, it looks like 2018 will be peak backlog.

New construction starts for Manufacturing total for the last 12 months would count as the 2nd highest year on record. I’m now expecting double digit % spending growth in both 2018 & 2019. The consensus estimate is for +2.8% increase in 2018 spending and +5.2% in 2019. Some analysts predict 2018 manufacturing bldg spending will decline.

Structural steel contract includes structural shapes, steel joists, metal deck, stairs and rails, about 10% of total building final cost.

Other steel in a building can include reinforcing steel, exterior metal wall panels, metal ceiling frames, wall studs, door frames, canopies, steel duct, steel pipe and conduit, about 6% of total building cost.

All steel (in a structural steel building) is at least 16% of total building cost. There are more hidden costs of steel in mechanical, electrical and plumbing equipment.

Raw mill steel is about one fourth the final cost of structural steel installed. A 25% increase in cost of mill steel could raise a structural steel subcontract bid price by 6.25%. At 10% of total building budget, that would raise total building cost by 0.625%.

A 25% increase in cost of mill steel could raise the other nonstructural steel costs by 6.25%. At 6% of total building budget, that would raise total building cost by 0.375%.

A 25% tariff on mill steel raises building cost inflation by at least 1%. That’s about $7.5 billion of unexpected cost inflation just in 2018.

Watch for unexpected impacts from steel tariffs, potentially adding 5% or more to total cost of bridges (plate steel). Also impacted, power industry, pipeline, transmission & communication towers, transportation.

Steel tariff could inflate the cost of the proposed $2.1 billion Gordy Howe International Bridge by $100 million. That would hurt the budget.

2018 Construction Spending Forecast – Nonresidential Bldgs construction spending in 2018 forecast to reach a new high, $459 billion, up 9% over 2017, passing the previous 2008 high. In constant $, 2018 will still be 18% below peak.

An estimator could be far off when indexing construction cost using a general cost index versus an actual selling price index.

Failure to account for the affect of inflation on the cost of construction could result in a failure to be profitable.

For the last 4 to 5 years average inflation for nonresidential buildings is 4.5% to 5%.

For the last 4 to 5 years average inflation for residential buildings is 5.5% to 6%. In 2013 it reached a 12-year high of 8%.

If you are hiring to meet your needs and you see that construction spending (revenue) has increased by 25%, do you hire to match revenue? No! Hiring requires a knowledge of volume growth, and revenue doesn’t show that. Revenue minus inflation shows volume.

Construction activity has a direct influence on construction inflation. Nonresidential Buildings and Non-building Infrastructure backlog are both at all-time highs.

Construction Jobs vs volume growth the last 5 years is nearly even, yet jobs imbalances exist within sectors. Nonresidential Buildings and Non-building Infrastructure show excess jobs while Residential shows a severe jobs deficit. But not all of the apparent deficit in residential jobs is real.

Are all residential jobs being counted? Several studies suggest that a large portion of residential construction jobs may be held by uncounted immigrant or day labor. So it’s possible the residential jobs deficit may not be as large as shown.

In addition to uncounted immigrant labor, some labor is mis-classified. Take for example, a high-rise multi-use building with commercial retail, office and residential space. Census definitions of spending classifications break out spending into the 3 market sectors, but the building is built by high-rise contractors (probably normally classified as commercial), not a residential contractor. This is residential space built using labor classified as non-residential commercial.

BLS writes this: “Establishments are classified into industries on the basis of their primary activity… For an establishment engaging in more than one activity, the entire employment of the establishment is included under the industry indicated by the principal activity.”

So, the mis-classified labor reduces the nonresidential excess and offsets a portion of the residential shortfall.

Construction added 1,339,000 jobs in the last 5 years. The only time in history that exceeded jobs growth like that was the period 1993-99 with the highest 5-year growth ever of 1,483,000 jobs. That same 1993-99 period had the previous highest 5-year spending and volume growth going back to 1984-88.

Construction added 177,000 jobs in the 4 months Nov’17-Feb’18. That’s happened, for any 4-month period, only 5 times since 1984. The last time was 2005-06, during the fastest rate of spending increases since 1984.

Construction jobs pulled back 15k in March, but this follows the strongest month (Feb +65k) in 12 years, so not totally unexpected. I think Mar Construction jobs, (-15k), more likely a pause after Feb (+65k), strongest month in 12 years.

see also Construction Economics Brief Notes 3-10-18

and also Notes on March 2018 Construction Spending 5-2-18

2018 Construction Outlook Articles Index

Articles Detailing 2018 Construction Outlook

Links will open in a new tab

These links point to articles here on this blog that summarize end-of-year data for 2017 and present projections for 2018.

Spend current vs constant 2018 3-4-18

Most Recently Published

July Construction Starts Fall but 3moAvg at New High

Construction Spending June 2018 8-1-18

June Construction Starts Reach New Highs 7-25-18

Construction JOLTS – What’s wrong with this picture? 7-10-18

What Jobs Shortage? 7-6-18

Construction Spending 2016-2017 Revisions 7-1-18

New Construction Starts May 2018 Near All-Time High 6-24-18

Construction Spending April 2018 – 6-1-18

Notes on March 2018 Construction Spending 5-2-18

Construction Activity Notes 4-25-18

2018 Construction Spending Forecast – Nonresidential Bldgs 3-28-18

2018 Construction Spending Forecast – Mar 2018

Construction Economics Brief Notes 3-10-18

Construction Spending is Back 3-9-18

Construction Jobs 3-8-18

Publicly Funded Construction 2-28-18

PPI Materials Input Index 2-20-18

Down the Infrastructure Rabbit Hole 2-16-18

Inflation in Construction 2018 – What Should You Carry? 2-15-18

Residential Construction Jobs Shortages 2-3-18

2018 Construction Spending – Briefs 1-26-18

Cautions When Using PPI Inputs to Construction! 1-15-18

Indicators To Watch For 2018 Construction Spending? 1-10-18

Spending Summary 2018 Construction Forecast Fall 2017 12-3-17

Backlog 2018 Construction Forecast Fall 2017 11-10-17

Starts Trends 2018 Construction Forecast Fall 2017 11-8-17

In What Category is That Construction Cost? 11-15-17

Construction Jobs / Workload Balance 11-7-17

Constant Dollar Construction Growth 11-2-17

Is Infrastructure Construction Spending Near All-Time Lows? 10-10-17

Summary

2018 Construction Spending Forecast – Mar 2018

2018 Construction Spending – Briefs 1-26-18

Spending Summary 2018 Construction Forecast Fall 2017 12-3-17

Construction Spending is Back 3-9-18

2017 Results

2018 Construction Spending Forecast – Mar 2018

Spending Summary 2018 Construction Forecast Fall 2017 12-3-17

2018 Starting Backlog & New Starts

2018 Construction Spending – Briefs 1-24-18

Backlog 2018 Construction Forecast Fall 2017 11-10-17

Starts Trends 2018 Construction Forecast Fall 2017 11-8-17

Construction Starts and Spending Patterns 9-26-17

2018 Spending Forecast

2018 Construction Spending Forecast – Mar 2018

2018 Construction Spending – Briefs 1-26-18

So, About Those Posts “construction spending declines…” 10-4-17

Construction Spending Almost Always Revised UP  5-1-17

Nonresidential Buildings

2018 Construction Spending Forecast – Nonresidential Bldgs 3-28-18

2018 Construction Spending Forecast – Mar 2018

2018 Construction Spending – Briefs 1-24-18

Nonres Bldgs Construction Spending Midyear 2017 Forecast 7-24-17

Residential

2018 Construction Spending Forecast – Mar 2018

Residential Construction Jobs Shortages 2-3-18

Infrastructure Outlook

2018 Construction Spending Forecast – Mar 2018

Down the Infrastructure Rabbit Hole 2-16-18

2018 Construction Spending – Briefs 1-24-18

Is Infrastructure Construction Spending Near All-Time Lows? 10-10-17

Infrastructure – Ramping Up to Add $1 trillion 1-30-17

Calls for Infrastructure Problematic 1-12-17

Public Construction

2018 Construction Spending Forecast – Mar 2018

Publicly Funded Construction 2-28-18

Spending Summary 2018 Construction Forecast Fall 2017 12-3-17

Infrastructure & Public Construction Spending 3-5-17

Materials

PPI Materials Input Index  2-20-18

Jobs

Construction Jobs 3-8-18

Residential Construction Jobs Shortages 2-3-18

Construction Jobs / Workload Balance 11-2-17

Construction Jobs Growing Faster Than Volume 5-5-17

Inflation

Inflation in Construction 2018 – What Should You Carry? 2-15-18

Constant Dollar Construction Growth 11-2-17

Construction Inflation Index Tables UPDATED 2-12-18

Construction Cost Inflation – Commentary  updated 2-13-18

US Historical Construction Cost Indices 1800s to 1957

 

 

2018 Construction Spending – Briefs

1-26-18 updated 3-5-18

Dodge Data posted December construction starts on 1-25-18, showing total starts increased 3% from 2016. However, this compares unadjusted 2017 starts to upwardly revised 2016 starts. Starts are always revised upward in the following year. I expect revisions will show 2017 starts increased by more than 6% over 2016. January starts, released 2-22-18 dropped 2% from December, but Residential starts hit the highest SAAR$ in 11 years and total starts SAAR$ went over $725 billion for 6th time in the last year and the only times since 2007.

Total starting backlog for 2018, currently at an all-time high, has increased on average 10%/year the last three years. 80% of all Nonresidential spending within the year will be generated from projects in starting backlog.

Total All 2018 construction spending is projected to increase 8% to $1.330 trillion.

Up Arrows

Spending measured in current 2018$ will reach an all-time high, however, measured more appropriately in constant inflation adjusted dollars, will still come in 14% below the 2005 high. When comparing inflation adjusted constant dollars, 2018 spending is still lower than all years from 1998 through 2007.

In constant inflation adjusted dollars, which more closely reflects volume, 2018 Infrastructure spending will reach a new high but nonresidential buildings is still 4-5 years away from a new high and residential spending is 6-8 years from a new high.

Read more about Constant Dollar Construction Growth

Spend current vs constant 2018 3-4-18

Non-building Infrastructure starts in 2017 are down 2%. However, we can expect post-year revisions to infrastructure starts. I expect, when all revisions are posted,  that 2017 will show infrastructure starts increased a few percent from 2016. Starts peaked in 2015 and are still near that high-point. 2018 starting backlog is the highest ever, up 10%+ each of the last 3 years. Spending reached an all-time high in 2015 and stayed within 0.3% of that high for 2016. Although 2017 shows a spending drop of 3.6%, spending is also prone to large upward revisions, particularly in Power, the largest market in Infrastructure. Starting backlog is up 25% in the last two years. Spending for 2018 is projected to increase 8% to an all-time high.

Transportation terminals 2017 new starts jumped 120%. Rail project starts increased more than 100%. Starting backlog for all transportation work, including terminals, runways, rail and dock work is the highest ever, up 80% from 2017, up 100% in the last two years. Spending has been within few % of the 2015 all-time high for 4 years. Spending is projected to increase 20-25%/year for the next two years.

Power plant new starts are down for the 2nd year but had hit an all-time high in 2015, up nearly 150% from 2014. Pipeline starts were up more than 125% in each of the past two years. Starting backlog for all power projects has nearly doubled in the last three years. Spending is projected to increase 5% and 7% in 2018 and 2019.

Highway spending is not projected to change by much, up only 2% in 2018, but it has been within a few percent of the all-time high for the last three years. Backlog from new starts has increased on average 6%/year for the last four years.

Backlog for Nonbldg Infra 2014-2019 1-29-18

 

Nonresidential Buildings new construction starts in 2017 are up 7%. When all revisions are in, I expect that to climb over to 10%. Total starts for the last 6 months are 10% higher than any time since 2007. Starts are up 60% in four years. 2018 starting backlog is the highest ever, 10% above 2008, up 15% from 2017. Spending for 2018 is projected to increase 8% to 9%.

Office new starts hit an all-time high in 2016 and just missed surpassing that mark in 2017. Starts increased on average 22%/year from 2013 through 2016, but 2017 starts dropped 2%. Starting backlog increased dramatically during that 2013-2016 growth period and backlog is up 50% in the last two years. Spending followed with three years of growth over 20%/year from 2014 through 2016. The 3% spending growth currently recorded for 2017 is an unexplained anomaly. All other data indicates 2017 spending should have followed the pattern set in 2014-2016. Spending in 2018 is forecast to climb 8% and 2019 could increase 12%.

Educational new starts hit an eight year high in 2016 and increased another 6% in 2017. Total new construction starts for the last 6 months are 13% higher than any other 6-month total since 2008. Starting backlog has increased 10%/year for the last three years. The last three years we’ve seen spending increases of 6%, 5% and 3%. For 2018, spending is projected to increase 14%, the strongest growth since 2007.

Healthcare starts jumped 13% in 2016, the first significant increase in nearly 10 years. 2017 starts maintained even level with 2016. Coming into 2018, starting backlog is up 16% over the past two years, a sign for slow moderate growth. 2017 is the first time in 5 years Healthcare spending increased, up 4.3%. For 2018, spending is projected to increase 4%.

Manufacturing posted several very large project starts in 2017, increasing total starts 20% over 2016. This increased starting backlog 8% for 2018. Although still well below the banner years of 2015 and 2016, spending is projected to increase 12% in 2018 and 10% in 2019.

Amusement/Recreation new starts increased only 5% in 2017, but that follows a 30% increase in 2016, to reach a new high in 2017. New construction starts for the last 6 months is the highest 6-month total new starts ever recorded, 1/3rd higher than any time in last 10 years. This will help drive Amuse/Rec spending to double digit growth next two years. Starting backlog has doubled from 2014 to 2018. Spending increased only 5% in 2017 but spending is up 40% in the last 3 years, also reaching a new high in 2017. Spending is forecast to increase 20% for 2018 and 15% in 2019.

This spending category includes sports stadiums which by some accounts may fall 40% in 2018, but that is hard to envision, considering the record new starts over the last 6 months. Sports stadiums is 1/3rd of Amuse/Rec so that would lower my forecast by about 10%. I’m sticking with my forecast.

Lodging experienced six consecutive years of massive growth in starts and spending after losing 75% of its pre-recession market. Starts grew 30%/year from 2011 through 2016. In 2017 starts posted a decline of 5%. Spending averaged 25% growth from 2012 through 2016, but posted only 7% growth in 2017. Backlog is still up slightly to start 2018. Spending is projected to come in at 8% growth for 2018. But backlog drops off 15% for 2019 and spending is expected to follow suit.

Commercial construction is being supported by new starts for warehouse construction which have increased seven consecutive years. In 2010 warehouse construction was only 20% of this market. From 2010, stores grew 50% to a peak in 2015, but warehouses grew 500% to peak in 2017 and are now 50% of the total market. Warehouses are increasing and stores are declining. In 2018, warehouses will make up 60% of the market. Total commercial starts for 2018 will remain equal to 2017 and 2016. The years of big backlog growth occurred from 2012 to 2017. Backlog remains constant from 2017 to 2018 and declines slightly in 2019. After 6 years of spending growth averaging more than 12%/year, spending will increase by only 4% in 2018 and 1% in 2019.

Backlog for Nonres Bldgs 2014-2019 1-29-18

 

Public share of new construction starts are up only 10% in 3 years. But due to long duration job types, 2018 starting backlog is up 30% in the last 3 years. In 2018, 40% of all spending comes from jobs that started before 2017. Leading 2018 spending growth are Educational and Transportation with a combined total forecast 20% growth. Expect 2018 public spending to increase 6% to 8%, the best growth in 10 years.

Residential spending is more dependent on new starts within the most recent 12 months than on backlog from previous starts. New construction starts for January 2018 are the highest in 11 years. Total starts for the last 6 months are the highest since 2006. Residential starts in 2018 are projected to increase 7% over 2017, almost all of that coming from new single family starts. Residential spending in 2018 is projected to increase only 6% after five years of increases over 10%.

See also

In What Category is That Construction Cost? explains where some specific costs are carried, which may vary between sources. Take particular note of Transportation, Office and Commercial.

Starts Trends Construction Forecast Fall 2017 for a much more thorough handling of the starts forecast.

Indicators To Watch For 2018 Construction Spending?

Spending Summary Construction Forecast Fall 2017

 

Indicators To Watch For 2018 Construction Spending?

I’ve read several articles recently describing, Why 2018 could be a boom year for construction spending. Several reasons being given to support a potential boom, when we look a little deeper, actually may not be good indicators at all to predict the trend for a strong year in 2018. In my Fall Forecast  I do predict 8% growth in 2018 construction spending, but let’s take a look at what gets us there.

Data that doesn’t tell us much about the future trend in construction spending.

Jobs increased in 2017 up 35% over 2016. In 2017 construction added 210,000 jobs, growth of 35% over 2016, but in 2016 jobs growth decreased by 55% from 2015. 2016 growth was the lowest in 5yrs. In 2013 jobs growth increased by 85% and in 2014 by 71%, but in 2015 and 2016 jobs growth slowed. Yet 2015 was one of the best construction spending years on record. And in 2017, jobs growth increased over 2016 but spending growth slowed. The direction of jobs growth is not an indicator of the future trend in spending.

Nov 2017 spending was higher than expected, and YTD is up 4.2%. This is a slippery slope. Actually we won’t know any particular monthly spending until several months after the initial release. All monthly spending values are subject to revision three times after initial release.  However, residential spending is higher than expected for the YTD and nonresidential buildings spending is below expectations for YTD. But more importantly, construction spending normally fluctuates. For instance, in the 2nd half of 2015, spending was down 4 out of 6 months, lower than forecast three times, posting a total decline of 2.5%. Yet 2015 finished the year up 10%. Then, in the 1st half of 2016, spending was up 5 out of 6 months, far exceeding forecast 3 times, posting a total increase of 6% in 6 months. 2016 finished up 6.5% for the year. Neither half performance predicted final results within the year or the forecast for the future. Furthermore, after inflation, 2017 spending is currently flat with 2016$, so all we are seeing in the 4.5% spending growth in 2017 is inflation. Current and past spending is not an indicator of the future trend in spending.

What data does give an indication of the future trend in construction spending?

Construction Starts (Dodge Data & Analytics DDA), Backlog, Cash flow from Starts, the Architectural Billings Index (ABI), The Dodge Momentum Index (DMI) and New Residential Permits and # of Units Construction Starts all give an indication of the future trend in spending.

Residential Permits and # of new units started gives a fairly immediate indication of residential activity. The ABI gives an indication of nonresidential building to start construction about 9 months out and the DMI about 12 months out. The ABI and DMI give some indication as to whether future starts will increase or decrease. DDA Starts give an indication of the percent growth in future work, but not when the spending will occur, so cannot be used directly to predict spending. A good example is the new start for airport terminal work recorded as a new start in 2017 at $4 billion. But it may take 5 or 6 years to complete that $4 billion project and only cash flow will show the impact on spending.

Care must be taken to use Starts data properly. It is regularly misinterpreted in common industry forecasting articles. Starts dollar values represent a survey of about 50% to 60% of industry activity, therefore Starts dollar values cannot ever be used directly to indicate spending. Also, Starts do not directly indicate changes in spending per month or per year. Only by including an expected duration for all Starts and producing a forecast Cash Flow from Starts data can the expected pattern of spending be developed. Finally, it is the rate of change in Starts Cash Flows that gives an indication of the rate of change in spending.

Cash flow is the best indicator of how much and when spending will occur. Cash flow from DDA starts gives a prediction over time of how spending from each month of previous starts will occur from all projects in backlog. Cash flow totals of all jobs can vary considerably from month to month, are not only driven by new jobs starting but also old jobs ending, and are heavily dependent on the type, size and duration of jobs.

Index of Actual Spending and Starts Cash Flows 2015-2018 2-10-18

Of course, data highlighting demand, occupancy rates, labor and material trends and other economic factors affecting construction trends all weigh into determining future spending expectations. However, for nonresidential buildings and infrastructure approximately 75% to 80% of all spending within the year comes from starting backlog. Most economic factors that will have an affect on spending within the year are already captured in projects that have started and are in current backlog. On the other hand, new residential starts are more important. 70% of all residential spending in the year comes from new starts.

The following trend predictions are developed based on using this outline.

Starts Trends Construction Forecast Fall 2017

Backlog Construction Forecast Fall 2017

Spending Summary Construction Forecast Fall 2017

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