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2023 Construction Volume Growth
Construction volume is spending without inflation. If we want to know whether business is growing, we need to look at spending without inflation, or volume of business. Volume is what dictates the need for jobs.
If an apple this yr cost 50c, and last yr it cost 40c, the revenue changing hands has gone up 10c or 25%. Volume of business changing hands has not changed, it’s still only one apple. Inflation adds nothing to the volume of business.
For 2021 and 2022, total construction spending increased 8.5% and 10.5%. But, inflation was 11% and 15%. In both years, inflation was higher than spending. First, subtract inflation from the total spending. Then volume growth can be compared year to year. Volume growth calculation is Vol this yr/Vol last yr, but first, it is dependent on each individual year spending minus inflation.
Volume each individual year is calculated as spending minus inflation. But growth in Volume from yr to yr is Vol this yr/Vol last yr., so is often different than growth in spending.
The volume of construction work completed in 2021 ($1.467tril) is 11% (inflation) less than 2021 spending ($1.626tril)
The volume of work completed in 2022 ($1.572tril) is 15% less than 2022 spending ($1.798tril)
So, while Spending growth is 1.798/1.626 = 10.6%, Volume growth is 1.572/1.467= 7.2%.
All the plots below show spending, volume and jobs. All dollars are constant $. Current $ in 2010 are not the same as current $ in 2023, so all $ are indexed to the same constant point in time, constant $, so they can be compared.
This plot shows the cumulative change in Total All Spending, Volume and Jobs since Jan. 1, 2020. The far right column in the table above shows the change from 2019 to 2022. Spending is up 29%. Volume is up only 18%. Jobs are up only about 2%. Below are plots that show the differences in jobs and volume growth for each sector.
Residential 2022 spending is = $900bil. Inflation is 15%. Without inflation, residential volume is up $780bil. Residential spending in 2023 is forecast at $850bil. If residential inflation for 2023 comes in low, say at 4%, then w/o inflation residential volume in 2023 would be $820bil. 2023 spending would be 6% lower than 2022, but volume is 5% higher. All due to the huge bite that 15% inflation took out of 2022 spending.
Recently, residential jobs have been holding relatively close to volume. In 2019 and 2022 they were even. That is not the case for the rest of construction.
Nonresidential Buildings and Non-building Infrastructure constant $ volume since Jan. 2020 is down about 25%. Note how jobs dropped less than 10%. This, not residential, is what is driving the deficit of volume shown in the Total All plot above. The major growth forecast in Nonres Bldgs and Non-bldg in 2023 and 2024 should help offset some of the difference.
Both Nonres Bldgs and Non-bldg have a very large number of jobs currently not supported by volume. This could be contractors holding on to their labor in a slack period so they have the labor when needed. Those jobs could potentially absorb a lot of the anticipated growth in the spending forecast. The volume growth in these sectors would indicate a needed jobs growth that far exceeds the ability of the construction industry to add jobs.
The current excess of jobs could absorb a lot of the volume growth. In the last two years, jobs increased about 2% but volume of work decreased 20% to 25%. These should move in tandem, not in opposition. The data counters the narrative of jobs shortages. In these two sectors, jobs are now at the highest ever excess over volume. This does not address the alternative, skills shortages. But the data shows there are a lot of bodies that could take on a large amount of growth in the volume of work. I expect the volume growth over the next two years will increase much faster than jobs growth. That would be very good for the construction industry.
As I mentioned, the volume growth in these sectors would indicate a needed jobs growth that far exceeds the ability of the construction industry to add jobs. The most jobs ever added in the last 50 years is just over 400,000. The average jobs added in the last 12 years is 225,000 (excluding the 230k lost in 2020) and the most in one year in the last 12 years is 320,000. It’s reasonable to assume the industry can add 300,000 to 400,000 jobs a year.
We either accept that we can’t add enough jobs to support increasing the workload by that much or we can’t add the anticipated workload in the forecast.
If we accept the forecast volume growth over the next two years, we simply could not add enough jobs in one or even two years to accommodate all the volume of work forecast. Both the Nonres Bldgs and Non-bldg plots above show a steep incline in the volume of work added, but not nearly as steep an incline in the number of jobs added. This can be correct only if a large percentage of the work added is absorb by the current workforce.
Construction Spending Outlook – Feb 2023
Total construction spending in 2023 will increase only 4.2% over 2022. Nonresidential Buildings will lead construction spending in 2023 with a forecast gain of 18%.
The last two years, 2021 and 2022, total spending increased 8.5% and 10%. However, inflation in 2021 was 11% and in 2022 was 15%, both higher than spending. Real construction volume for the year is spending without the inflation. The volume of work completed in 2021 is 11% less than 2021 spending and in 2022 is 15% less than the total of 2022 spending.
The rate of construction spending in 2023 will be influenced predominantly by a 38% increase in new nonresidential building starts in 2022. In fact, even more meaningful, Nonres Bldgs new starts, in 2nd half 2022, averaged 68% higher than any other 6mo period in history. In recent years, new starts averaged $300 billion/year. In the 2nd half of 2022, starts averaged over $500 billion/year. Many of the projects peak spending will occur in 2023. Some will occur in 2024. Total spending forecast for Nonres Bldgs in 2023 is $616bil, an increase of 18.5% over 2022.
Growth in Manufacturing construction starts for 2022 far surpasses growth in any other market, up over 150%. Total new starts for the past 2 years is up over 400%. It will take at least a year to determine how much of that growth is an increase in total new construction and how much is an increase in capture of data in the starts survey.
Non-building starts for 2022-23 are forecast up 50%. Spending 2023-24 is forecast up 23%.
Non-building Infrastructure will post the 1st year of sizable gains since 2019, forecast at $400bil, up 9.6% in 2023. In 2022, Highway and Public Utilities posted strong gains of 9.0% and 16.5%, but those gains were offset by a 9.0% decline in Power. For 2023, Highway and Transportation recorded the strongest starts in five years. All markets post spending gains, with Highway up 12.0%, Transportation up 15.0% and Public Utilities up 11.5%.
See this discussion on Infrastructure and Jobs here
Infrastructure Constr Expansion – Not So Fast
Residential starts in 2021 were up +21% to what was then a new high. Starts peaked in the 1st half 2022 then started a decline in 2nd half 2022. By Q4’22, the rate of new starts dropped by 20%. Starts are forecast down 2% in 2023.
After three years of gains totaling 64%, expect residential spending to decline 6% in 2023. Single Family (47% of rsdn) spending peaked in April and since is down 20% in eight consecutive months. Multi-family (15% of rsdn) is up 11 consecutive months, now up 19% from January 2022. Reno/Rpr (38% of all rsdn) is up 25% for the year, but in the last five months, the rate of spending has fallen 15%. Only multi-family is currently trending up. 75% of all gains in multi-family occurred in the 4th quarter.
For the past 3 years, 2020-2022, Reno/Repair construction spending has gone up 1.26 x 1.16 x 1.25 = 1.8x, or 80%. Spending is currently down 17% from the peak in 4 of the last 5 mo. If the SAAR were to stall where it’s at now for the rest of 2023, spending will be down 10% for the year and will still be up 1.65x over last 4 years. Sure, it’s down, but it’s still high.
Residential spending grew 44% in the last 2yrs, but inflation was 30% of that 44%.
The annual rate of spending in all Nonresidential Buildings markets increased from Q1 to Q4 2022 and also Q4 spending in every market was higher than the average for 2022. Heading into 2023, nonresidential buildings markets start out the year with the annual rate of spending already 8% higher than the average 2022, and the trend has been up. The annual avg is usually much higher than Jan of the year, so I’d expect 2023 to come in higher. Although there are a few moderate dips in spending in some markets during the year, every market adds growth in 2023.
NOTE: The Census spending release on 2-1-23 is the 1st release to capture Dec data and therefore all months in 2022. The 3-1-23 release will revise both Dec and Nov. The 4-1-23 release will revise Dec. And the 7-1-23 release will revise any/all months needing further revision in both 2021 and 2022, sometimes with hefty changes. Historically, revisions are predominantly UP.
See Behind The Spending Forecasts
for a table showing the annual rate of spending for each market in the 4th qtr compared to the 2022 average. That’s the rate of spending starting out 2023.
Starting out the year with (Dec’22) an annual rate of spending already averaging 8% greater than 2022, coupled with 38% growth in new starts in 2022, much of which will be spent in 2023, produces the strongest year of growth in nonresidential buildings construction spending since 2007.
3-1-23 Surprises in the Census Construction Spending for Jan.
Nonres Bldgs January 2023 spending begins the year at a rate up 16% vs avg 2022 and up 23% YTD vs Jan 2022. Just one month ago the Dec. rate of nonres bldgs spending was only 8% higher than the average of 2022. This is Nonres Bldgs construction spending best start to the year since my records back to 2001. All indications are spending will increase throughout the year. I had forecast Mnfg in 2023 up 35% and total Nonres Bldgs up 18%. Now I have Mnfg up 40% and Total Nonres Bldgs up 20%.
If spending continues to increase at even a moderate pace, we could see the year end with Mnfg spending up 45% and total Nonres Bldgs spending up 25%.
- Mnfg starts Jan +54% ytd and +33% vs avg 2022.
- Comm/Rtl starts Jan +23% ytd and +18% vs avg 2022.
- Lodging starts Jan +42% ytd and +18% vs avg 2022.
- RSDN starts Jan -6% ytd and -5% vs avg 2022.
- Highway begins 2023 +16% ytd and +8% vs avg 2022.
- Power begins 2023 -5% ytd and +3% vs avg 2022.
- Transportation begins 2023 +10% ytd and +14% vs avg 2022.
Part of the Mnfg +54% can be explained due to the very low Jan’22. That evens out in Q4, when 2022 inflation jumped, so 2023 comparisons won’t be as high.
Below, the enlarged scale gives a better look at nonresidential Bldgs spending.
To fully understand the forecast it is necessary to discuss the impact of inflation. Construction spending includes inflation. Inflation adds nothing to business volume. Spending minus inflation gives volume. Growth, or decline, in business volume measures the actual activity growth in the construction industry. Spending measures the amount of revenue that exchanged hands to make it happen.
2-6-23 Current and predicted Inflation updated to Q4’22
- 2020 Rsdn Inflation 4.6%, Nonres Bldgs 2.4%, Nonbldg Infra -0.3%
- 2021 Rsdn Inflation 13.9%, Nonres Bldgs 7.6%, Nonbldg Infra 7.9%
- 2022 Rsdn Inflation 15.7%, Nonres Bldgs 12.3%, Nonbldg Infra 13.8%
- 2023 Rsdn Inflation 1.7%, Nonres Bldgs 4.2%, Nonbldg Infra 4.3%
Although input costs have been dropping and final demand (Nonres Bldgs) increases have been slowing, 2023 demand for nonresidential construction is going to post the largest annual spending increase ever recorded. This could reverse the trend in Nonres pricing and keep inflation higher for Nonres Bldgs.
Inflation adjusted volume is spending minus inflation. Volume of work (spending minus inflation) is what drives the need for jobs.
- Total volume for 2021 fell 1.9%, Rsdn +10%, Nonres Bldgs -13%, Nonbldg -8%.
- Total volume for 2022 fell 2.3%, Rsdn -1%, Nonres Bldgs +1%, Nonbldg -9%.
- Total volume forecast 2023 is flat at 0%, Rsdn -10%, Nonres Bldgs +13%, Nonbldg +4%.
Because 2022 inflation was so high (12% to 15%), the adjustment to 2022 spending resulted in much lower volume. In 2023, spending is forecast up 4.2% (compared to last year spending) and forecast inflation is 2% to 5%. 2023 inflation reduces spending far less than what occurred in 2022. Volume gets compared to volume the previous year. Therefore volume in 2023 shows an unusually large increase compared to volume in 2022.
SEE Construction Inflation 2023
for the details of inflation costs, but here are plots of the same information as the two plots above, only difference being the plots above are Current$, dollars as reported in the current year as reported by Census, and the plots below are constant$, inflation $ has been removed. The plots below actually measure the real growth from year to year. For example, while the plot above shows residential growth in spending increased from $600 billion in Q1 2020, to $900 billion in 2022, the plot below shows most of that was inflation and after removing inflation, residential construction did increase in early 2022 but by Q1 2023 has dropped back to the same level it was at in Q1 2020.
Below, the enlarged scale gives a better look at nonresidential Bldgs volume.
Recent construction annual rate of spending is only 17% higher than March 2020, but overall total construction spending is up 30% for 2020-21-22. In that three year period there was 32% inflation, half of that in 2022. So, all of the 30% spending gain is inflation, there is no gain, (a slight drop of -2%) in volume for that three years. Residential spending increased more than 60% with rsdn inflation near 40%, so rsdn volume increased 20%. Rsdn jobs growth is near even on track with volume, but Nonres and Nonbldg jobs did not fall when volume dropped.Nonresidential had 10% volume decline in 2021. Nonres now has a volume deficit vs jobs, compared to at the end of 2019.
For a discussion of inflation effects on jobs growth visit this link where this chart will be discussed.
SEE Construction Spending – Volume – Jobs
Look Back at 2022 Construction Spending Forecasts
Initial Year end construction spending for 2022 is out today. This is when I compare my forecast for 2022 spending to all my prior monthly forecasts during the year AND I compare my midyear forecast prepared in May-June to the forecasts published at midyear in the AIA Consensus Construction Forecast. You can judge how I’ve measured up to forecasts thru the year.
This 1st table shows just the sum total in each sector for each monthly forecast I produced during the year. This year was quite unique in that new construction starts for nonresidential work increased by 60% in the 2nd half of the year, a magnitude of increase never before experienced. No one could have predicted that.
In this table I compare the actual for 2022 to the September forecast. My data analysis of 20 years of input shows that a particular set of months through and including September has forecast the end of year spending within 1.5% for nonresidential and within 2% for residential. You can see with the initial data for 2022 that the Sept forecast was within 3.2% for residential and within 2.0% for Nonres Buildings. Nonbuilding Infrastructure came in under the 1.5% threshold.
This next table is shows my midyear forecast for total 2022 spending compared to the forecasts published in the AIA Midyear 2022 Consensus. I’ve highlighted in green the closest estimate to the actual end-of-year spending report. In red is the worst forecast at midyear. This is the 3rd consecutive year that I’ve beat all the forecasts in the AIA Consensus. In fact, looking back at 2015-2019 there are several other years in which I beat out the AIA Consensus estimates.
I’m including this next plot because it shows the accuracy of my nonresidential forecasts when comparing my cash flow forecast amount to the actual spending amount. It has proven to be pretty accurate over the years.
Behind The Spending Forecasts
2-1-23 Here’s a look at Nonresidential Buildings Construction Spending Forecasts for 2023. What’s Behind a Forecast?
Two things to look at when developing a forecast: What is the current rate of spending (SAAR), and what direction has it been moving?, and, What has been the recent activity in new starts (new contract awards)?
Most of the spending from new starts (all starts in total from Jan thru Dec) occurs in the year following the start. A reasonable spending estimate (across a large volume of work) is 20:50:30. So, for the sum total of all starts in the year, 20% gets spent in the 1st year (the year started), 50% the 2nd year and 30% the 3rd year. So approximately 50% of all new starts last year gets spent this year. The ratio can be much different from market to market. In other words, the most influential factor on the rate and trajectory of spending this year (barring something such as a pandemic or a recession) is starts from last year.
Here is my current baseline data:
- Construction spending for 2022 in the 2-1-23 release is $520 billion, up 11.6%
- Construction Starts (per Dodge) up ~38% in 2022, up 15% in 2021 and forecast down 10% in 2023.
- Current rate of spending (SAAR avg in Q4) is $560 bil, increasing $5bil-$10bil/month.
The increasing rate of spending makes sense, since starts were up so much in 2021 and 2022, and starts in the prior year is the greatest influence on rate of spending in the current year. Average nonres bldgs spending for 2022 is $520bil and the Q4 rate of spending is $562bil. The current rate of spending (SAAR in Dec) is 8% higher than the 2022 total spending and is increasing.
If something happened to stall spending right now at the current rate, it is at an annual rate of $562 billion, 8% higher than the average from 2022. So, as we begin 2023, with no forecast for a downturn, we could expect 2023 total spending would be at a minimum 8% higher than 2022. Since the current rate of spending is increasing, we could reasonably expect 2023 spending will add to the 8% starting advantage. This is a solid starting point for forecasting 2023 since this is already on record.
I prepared this following table to show the starting annual rate of spending for all of the markets, in particular the nonresidential buildings markets. As of Q4 2022, or the starting point for 2023, we see a few markets are only 3% to 5% above the 2022 average and a few are considerably higher. Also included in this table is the percent growth in new starts in 2022 for each market.
Let’s use an example: The Educational market, in Q4, or as we begin 2023, has monthly spending at a rate 4.9% greater than 2022. Starts increased 8% in 2022, so there will be a slight to moderate increase to spending in 2023. If spending growth stalls at the current rate, it will finish 2023 at 4.9% over 2022. The only way it should fall to less than that in 2023 is for some decline in some months in 2023 to less than the current rate of spending in Q4. Since all markets have substantial new starts to feed 2023 spending, all markets should post spending in 2023 higher than Q4 2022.
The rate of spending in 2023, being influenced predominantly by a 38% increase in starts in 2022, is projected to continue increasing throughout 2023. The monthly cashflow of the starts $ from all previous years that still generate spending in 2023 is what determines the rate of change in spending. My forecast has nonresidential buildings spending increasing steadily from a rate of $570 billion in January to $625 billion in December.
What data supports my forecast? Spending is already, in Oct-Nov-Dec, 8% higher than the average for 2022, so we begin 2023 at a rate of spending up a minimum 8% higher than the average for 2022. The average for 2023 could fall below the current 8% IF we were to experience some unforeseen negative occurrence in the coming months. I don’t foresee that happening. In 2022 we realized the largest ever one-year increase in new starts, up 38%. Starts were also up in 2021, up 15%. The monthly rate of spending is up 12 of the last 14 months, has increased for 6 consecutive months and is up 10% in the last 6 months. The rate of spending is predicted to increase 10 out of 12 months in 2023, a total increase of 11% over the year. Barring any unforeseen negative occurrence, the trajectory in the rate of spending is increasing and 2023 spending will finish well above the 8% advantage starting at the beginning of the year.
My total forecast for Nonresidential Buildings spending in 2023 is $616 billion, an increase of 18.5% over 2022.
The AIA Consensus Construction Forecast, December 2022 predicts only a 5.8% increase in spending for nonresidential buildings in 2023. Five of the nine forecasts provided in the Consensus Forecast are below the 5.8% consensus average. Only two forecasts are higher than 8% which is the projected minimum growth as we begin 2023, as explained above. As we begin the year with data, as of December, already at a rate 8% greater than the average for 2022, and with record new starts indicating an increasing spending rate, how is a forecast developed lower than that? What’s behind those spending forecasts?
This article was updated on 2-2-23 from November data to December data for clarity and to include the table showing Q4 data. Overall, the premise has not changed.
Infrastructure Construction Expansion – Not So Fast
Only once in 25 years have heavy engineering construction jobs increased more than 5% in one year (7.5% in 2018, 72,000 new jobs). Most of the time jobs growth is under 4% (40,000 jobs). Average growth the last 12 years (see notes below) is near 3% or 30,000 jobs per year.
U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) national data shows there are currently 1,078,000 Heavy Engineering jobs. In 2019 there were 1,084,000. There was a loss of nearly 100,000 heavy engineering jobs in early 2020 due to the onset of the pandemic. In 2022, heavy engineering jobs have been nearly constant, just above 1,070,000 the entire year.
Highway/Bridge comprises approximately 30% of all heavy engineering spending, so supports about 300,000 jobs per year.
The current forecast for new construction starts has increased the forecast for spending growth dramatically above previous years. Both starts and spending statistics give an indication of what to expect in the jobs situation. The spending forecast is indicating a need for a large increase in jobs to support the new work. Spending (also consider inflation) is the critical value that determines the need for jobs. Without sufficient jobs, the spending cannot take place. If jobs do not increase to support the forecast spending, the timeline for the spending very likely will get extended.
It takes 400 jobs per year to put in place $100 million of heavy engineering construction in the year. (Some types of work would take 500 jobs, but I’ll work with 400 here). A construction program that hypothetically adds $1 billion of new construction starts in a year would see that work put in place (for Highway work) approximately over the next few years at a ratio similar to a 15:30:35:20 schedule, $150 million the 1st year, $300 million the 2nd year, $350 million the 3rd year and $200 million in the 4th and 5th years. To support $150 million growth in the 1st year would require 600 new jobs. To support an increase of $1 billion in spending in one year would require 4,000 new jobs.
How will the average growth in jobs affect the growth in new starts and forecast spending?
Modeling the new starts forecast, based on the spending schedule outlined above, projects the spending forecast for Highway/Bridge work over the next few years will increase by $15 billion/year. This would indicate a need to add 15 x 4,000 = 60,000 new highway construction jobs each year in 2023, 2024 and 2025. But the entire heavy engineering jobs pool has increased by that amount only once in 25 years and average growth for all heavy engineering jobs is only 20,000 jobs/year. If we take out 2020, when jobs plummeted, the average growth from 2011 to 2022 was 30,000 heavy engineering jobs per year. Keep in mind, highway is only 30% (6,000 to 9,000) of those averages. This indicates it will be very difficult to support spending growth of this magnitude. While the starts projections and resulting spending forecast indicate rapid growth, this market sector has never experienced spending or jobs growth this fast and it is likely that growth will be slower than indicated.
Some of this added work will be absorbed into the existing workforce, backfilling a large deficit in business volume. See this short post Construction Spending – Volume – Jobs Since the Pandemic, nonbuilding construction volume (spending minus inflation) is down 20%, but nonbuilding jobs are down only 1.5%. Compared to 2019, nonresidential construction has an 18% business volume deficit. In other words, Nonres construction in 2022 now has 18% more jobs per volume of work put-in-place than it did in 2019. Total all construction business volume in that period is down 10% while jobs are up 1.5%.
Aside from backfilling volume of work, this shows a shortfall of workers that would likely be needed to support the increased workload. The labor force is insufficient to accommodate that large an annual increase in spending. This could result in one or more of these outcomes: either the workforce must somehow increase faster, or the project spending could slow and duration would get extended, which is more likely.
Jobs shortfall to support 2022-2026 spending identifies unsupported need. If jobs cannot be filled, annual spending will be lower and construction timeline would get extended.
Currently, national construction unemployment rate is near or under 4%. That is an extremely tight jobs market, not an easy growth situation. Typically, when unemployment is in the 6% to 8% range there are workers on the sidelines ready to go right back to work. Unemployment seldom falls below 5%. The current jobs situation and unemployment rate seems to indicate there are few workers ready and available to support an immediate increased workload. This adds to the difficulty of expanding the workforce at a rapid rate.
In this analysis, the potential rate of jobs growth and the current unemployment rate both suggest that the projected rate of spending growth would not be supported. A slower rate of spending leads back to reducing starts.
See Also Burning Questions – Recession, Labor, Infrastructure
Midyear 2022 Spending Forecasts Compared – updated 2-1-23
How we doin?
In the AIA Midyear 2022 Consensus, eight firms provided forecasts for Nonresidential Bldgs markets construction spending for 2022. Their forecasts for 2022 are summarized here, percent +/- growth. Construction Analytics midyear forecast is included for comparison. Who is closest, who’s not? The year-to-date (YTD) value is through September 2022. I’ll update after final spending for 2022 is posted in Feb. 2023, and then revised in July. The Sept YTD data was released Nov.1st. I’ve included my current (Nov) forecast for 2022 final spending, the eventual target of all these forecasts, to the left of the table.
Here’s the initial 2022 total year spending released 2-1-23. This will get minor revisions in Mar, Apr and Jul. As in past years, I’ve highlighted in green for best estimate and red for worst estimate. This is the 3rd consecutive year I’ve produced collectively better forecasts than those published in the AIA Consensus. You can follow the links below this posts to prior year comparisons.
Construction Briefs Nov’22
Construction is Booming. Well, OK, construction is setting up to be booming in 2023-2024. New construction starts for Sept are down 19% from August and yet starts are still near the highest levels ever. Sept is 4th highest total starts ever, all four of the highest ever months of new starts are in 2022. July and Aug were the two highest months of new starts ever. Total growth in starts over 2021-2022 > Nonres Bldgs +50%, Nonbldg Infra +40%, Residential (all in ’21) +22%.
Construction Spending will not be participating in a 2023 recession. Except, residential might. Residential starts in 2021 were up +21% to a really high new high. But starts are forecast flat in 2022 and 2023. Spending grew 44% in the last 2yrs, but inflation was 30% of that 44%. With zero growth in starts forecast for 22-23, spending struggles to keep up with inflation. Residential will post only an increase of 3% in 2023 spending, but midyear there is potential for 6 consecutive down months.
See also Construction Year-End Spending Forecast Dec’22
SPENDING BY SECTOR CURRENT $ AND INFLATION ADJUSTED CONSTANT $
Nonresidential Buildings new starts last 2yrs (2021-2022) are up 50%. Spending next 2yrs (23-24) is forecast up 21%.
Nonbldg starts 2022-23 are forecast up 38%. Spending 2023-24 forecast up 20%.
In 2023, it’s Nonresidential Buildings leading growth. In 2024, it will be Nonbuilding Infrastructure leading spending growth. Both are expected to grow more than the inflation index, so there will be real volume growth to report.
Residential construction (Dodge) starts since Jan 2021 have posted 17 out of 21 months of the highest residential starts ever posted. The 5 highest months ever are all in 2022.
Nonresidential Bldgs starts in Sept dropped 23% from August and yet still that was the 3rd highest month ever. July and August were 2nd and 1st.
Construction starts for Nonresidential Bldgs posted each of the last 4 (consecutive) months thru October higher than any months ever before. The avg of last 4 (consecutive) months is 33% higher than the avg of the best previous 4 mo ever (even non-consecutive). Growth in Manufacturing construction starts for 2022 far surpasses growth in any other market, up over 150% year-to-date.
Construction Spending Sept total up 0.2% from Aug. Aug & Jul were revised up 1.1% & 1.3%. Total spending YTD thru Sept’22 is up 11.4% from Sept’21. MAJOR movers; Mnfg up 16% since Jun. Jul & Aug were revised up 7.4% & 8.4%. Highway is up 9% since June. Jul & Aug were revised up by 4.0% & 4.4%.
Total construction spending for 2022 is on track to increase +11.1%. Residential +16.8%, Nonres Bldgs +9.5%, Nonbldg +0.5%.
Comm/Rtl +18% Mnfg +32% Power -8% Pub Utilities +14%.
Current and predicted Inflation SEE Construction Inflation at Year-End 2022
Inflation adjusted volume is spending minus inflation.
Total volume for 2022 falls 1%. Rsdn +3%, Nonres Bldgs -1%, Nonbldg -9%.
Total volume for 2023 is up 1%. Rsdn -3%, Nonres Bldgs +8%, Nonbldg +2%.
SPENDING TOTAL ALL $ CURRENT $ AND INFLATION ADJUSTED CONSTANT $
Overall Construction Spending is up 15% since the onset of the pandemic, but, after adjusting for 25% inflation, volume is down 10%. Residential jobs are near even on track with volume, but Nonres and Nonbldg have volume deficits of approx 20-25% vs jobs.
- Feb 2020 to Aug 2022
- Resdn spend +42%, vol +6.5%, jobs +7%
- Nonres Bldgs spend -8%, vol -24%, jobs -3%
- NonBldg spend -7.5%, vol -24%, jobs +1%
JOBS VS CONSTRUCTION VOLUME VS SPENDING (VOL = SPENDING MINUS INFLATION
Labor Shortage? Jobs should track volume, not spending growth. Vol = spending minus inflation. Volume is down while jobs are up. If the same production levels ($ put-in-place per worker) as 2019 were to be regained, theoretically, nonresidential volume would need to increase 20% with no increase in nonresidential jobs. I don’t expect that to occur, therefore, productivity will remain well below that of 2019.
Over the next year or two, there could be several billion$ of construction spending to repair hurricane damaged homes in Florida. That spending will NOT be reported in Census spending reports. Renovations to repair natural disaster damage are not recorded in construction spending. Construction spending to replace homes entirely lost to damage IS reported in Census spending, but is reported as renovations/repair, not new SF or MF construction.
RESIDENTIAL SPENDING SF-MF-RENO CURRENT $ AND CONSTANT $
Construction Spending thru Aug’22
Burning Questions – Recession, Labor, Infrastructure
I gave two conference presentations in the past month. The most pressing questions from the audience were:
Are we headed into a recession? When will recession start?
What can be done about the labor shortage?
How can we support all the infrastructure work that is about to begin?
There is no question the sizable drop in starts in 2020 lead to a downturn in construction spending, mostly felt in 2021, but extending somewhat into 2022. However, this quickly turned around for residential spending and nonres bldgs spending is now past the low point caused by the pandemic initiated slowdown. With new construction starts to date at all-time highs and the forecast for new construction starts in the pipeline, it’s hard to envision how this would lead to a construction recession.
- In 2021, new starts increased 17%. Residential +21%, Nonres Bldgs +15% and Nonbldg +9%.
- In 2022, new starts are forecast up 11%. Residential +10%, Nonres Bldgs +18% and Nonbldg +4%.
- In 2023, new starts are forecast up 10%. Residential +12%, Nonres Bldgs +7% and Nonbldg +11%.
Total of all starts year-to-date in 2022 are up 6% over Jan-May 2021. Nonres bldgs starts are up 17% year-to-date. For the past 6 months, Dec’21 to May’22, residential construction starts posted 5 of the 6 highest months ever. The 6mo total for residential starts is the highest 6mo total ever recorded, up 4% over the previous 6mo record, posted in 2021.
Residential new starts get spent at a ratio of 70:30. Nonresidential Bldgs spending from new starts, on average, gets spent over the next 3 years in the ratio of 20:50:30. That is, 20% of spending from all starts within the year gets spent within the year started, 50% gets spent in the following year and 30% gets spent in the 3rd and sometimes 4th year. So from this we can say, if new starts are up 10% for the year then spending from that source will increase 10% x 20% or 2% the 1st year, 10% x 50%, 5% the 2nd year and 10% x 30%, 3% the 3rd year. If we get 3 consecutive years of growth in new starts there would be no downward pressure on spending for the next 3 to 4 years.
In the 2nd half of 2021, residential starts, although still strong, posted a few lower monthly totals. Although 2022 spending will still finish the year up, these lower monthly starts from late 2021 will work to cause a slight spending dip in the 2nd half of 2022. Nonresidential Bldgs spending is slowly increasing in 2nd half 2022. Nonbldg spending is flat or very slowly decreasing. The net effect is spending will post a decline in 4 of the next 8 months of 2022, but the total declines may not result in 2 consecutive quarters of declines. By the time we head into 2023, all three major construction sectors are in a growth pattern.
So, we will see a few months of spending declines, but the new starts pool of work is growing, not decreasing. The current forecast model is predicting no recession on the horizon.
This next plot shows labor and volume of work (spending minus inflation) to support that labor growing equally, albeit with short-term peaks and troughs, from 2011 to 2018. In fact, this equal growth extends far back with only few years causing exception to this pattern. This plot, and the extension of this plot to older data, shows that normally, labor increases at the same rate as volume. You can see that 2018 posted a significant drop in volume while jobs continued to increase. This departure had nearly corrected itself by Jan 2020.
The most recent construction spending report, issued July 1, revised unadjusted spending data for 2020 and 2021, both years added $30+bil. That brought volume up those years on this plot. The current spread between jobs and volume of work is still 10%.
In May of 2020, jobs were already on the rebound, but the volume of work was not. Work volume did recover some at the end of 2020 but then fell again, as was predicted, into mid-2021. In May of 2020, jobs and the volume of work were near balance. Since May of 2020, spending increased by 22%, but most of that was inflation. Since May 2020, actual work volume increased by only 1.5%. Jobs increased by 9%.
The last time the normal jobs/volume growth pattern was disrupted like this was 2006, the only other time in the last 25 years this occurred.
Volume, not spending, supports jobs. If volume is down, support for more jobs drops. If jobs increase while volume is declining then productivity is declining and the number of jobs required to put-in-place $1 billion of construction volume increases. At the same time, the inverse, the amount of volume put-in-place per job, decreases. This productivity loss drives up construction labor cost inflation and the need for additional labor to complete the job.
edited/added 8-6-22 Where the construction jobs are:
From Feb 2020 to Jul 2022 Nonres Bldgs and Nonbldg jobs are down 3.5% and 1.5%. Volume of work is down 20%.
Residential jobs are up 6.5%. Rsdn volume is up 14%.
It’s not quite that bad in either sector because some workers classified and counted as nonresidential perform work in the residential sector.
Total jobs up 1%. Total volume down 7%. That’s a slip of 8% in productivity. If labor is only 30% of total construction cost, an 8% slip in productivity is a 2.4% increase in inflation. That’s in addition to changes in wages.
The current administration has approved an infrastructure spending bill that earmarks approximately $500 billion for construction spending. It will take several years to start all this work.
The infrastructure spending bill may fund construction for a variety of buildings and non-building types of construction, for example, highway, water and sewer, educational, healthcare, etc. Rather than strictly classified as infrastructure, or as commonly referred to as nonbuilding construction, this bill will fund some forms of buildings and non-building construction in the public construction sector.
The total of all public construction is only 25% of all construction. This subset of construction totals about $360 billion in annual construction spending. It has never increased by more than $37 billion in spending ($35 billion in volume) in a year. Average growth is closer to $10-$15 billion/year. This public sector of construction does not have the capacity to increase by $100 billion/year.
As you can see in the plot above, it takes about 5000 jobs to support $1 billion of volume for 1 year. So, increasing volume by $35 billion in one year would require 35 x 5000 = 175,000 new jobs for that year. Keep in mind, this is to support a subset of construction that is only 25% of all construction.
Jobs rarely (4 out of 50 yrs) increase by more than 400,000 in one year for all construction. Even taking out the 13 years when jobs dropped, the average jobs growth for the past 50 years is only 220,000/year for all construction. That would seem to indicate the average growth for the public sector, at 25% of all construction, averages only 55,000 jobs/year.
Total all construction for the three years 2022-2023-2024 is forecast to increase $140 billion, $117 billion and $116 billion. The remaining 75% of the construction industry still adds a lot of demand for growth and jobs beyond just that of the public sector that gets a boost from the infrastructure bill. But after adjusting for inflation, the growth in volume over this three-year period is only about $120 billion. That would generate a need to create 600,000 new jobs over the next three years. About 25% of those jobs support the infrastructure funded growth.
If the infrastructure spending bill adds $35-$40 billion/year in spending, $30-$35 billion/year in volume, the need would be 150,000 to 175,000 jobs/year to support that 25% of the construction industry. Since it is unlikely the public sector of construction could add that many jobs, it is more likely the amount of construction spending added yearly will be somewhat lower.
Infrastructure has a slower spending curve than the 20:50:30 for nonres bldgs, roughly more like 15:40:30:15. If $100 bil of new contract awards start in 2022 then spending would be $15 bil in 2022, $40 bil in 2023, etc.. At $100 bil of new starts per year, the highest one-year growth would be $40 bil, probably double the pace the sector can grow.
Construction Jobs and Spending Briefs 4-1-22
Construction Jobs report for Mar 2022 shows total jobs up 19,000 from Feb
Rsdn jobs +7,600, Nonres Bldgs +6,300, Civil +5,000
Although construction jobs increased by 19,000 in March, total hours worked dropped by 1.8% from Feb, so total workforce output is down.
It’s real hard to compare construction jobs growth by sector. If you work for a concrete firm or structural steel firm, with firm doing primarily nonresidential work, but you are out there putting in concrete or steel for a high-rise multifamily buildings, your job is still classified as nonresidential.
Jobs are up 82,000 year-to-date, 1.1% from Dec, but that’s also up 3.5% from ytd 2021. With the latest quarter at +1.1%, jobs are increasing at a rate of 4%/year. But inflation adjusted spending, building activity, is expected up only 2.5% in 2022, after dropping -2% in 2021. Jobs increased 2.5% in 2021.
2022 spending started the year at the highpoint. I expect a slow decline in monthly spending in all sectors of 2% over the 2nd half. That provides no support for jobs growth.
Construction jobs have nearly returned to pre-pandemic levels. The problem with construction jobs having returned to pre-pandemic levels is the level of inflation adjusted construction volume of activity that is needed to support those jobs is still 5% below Feb 2020 and 13% below the 2006 peak. So since Feb 2020, jobs are back to that level, but volume is not so productivity has dropped by 5%.
Construction Spending is up +10.4% year-to-date (in 2 months!) mostly driven by +15.5% ytd Residential.
A plot of residential construction spending inflation adjusted. Taking out inflation shows volume of building activity. Perhaps the trend in residential is strong enough to keep going.
Total spending is up +4% in 3mo since Nov 2021 (and 10% ytd-2mo), but I don’t expect this rate of growth to hold. However, this and any other changed data inputs revises my 2022 spending forecast.
Examples of big changes since initial forecast:
Manufacturing spending has increased so much in Jan-Feb, (up 35% ytd) that even if the next 10 months finish flat year/year, Mnfg will still finish up 5% for 2022.
Residential new starts for the latest 3 mo, Dec-Jan-Feb, avg is as high as any quarter last year. Nearly all of this spending occurs in 2022.
Construction buildings cost inflation over the last 4 years is up 25%. Labor cost, wages up 15% & productivity down 7%, is up 22%. But labor is 35% of total building cost so 22% x 35% = labor is 8% of that total 25% building cost inflation. Fully 1/3 of construction inflation over last 4 years went into workers pockets.