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Construction Backlog 2017


Starting Backlog is the Estimate-to-Complete (ETC) value of all projects under contract at the beginning of the year. Projects in starting backlog could have started last month or last year or three years ago. The requirement is that those projects have not reached their end-date and some portion of the revenues generated by those projects is still ETC. The sum of all ETC represents current backlog.

A cash flow schedule of all ETC backlog and predicted new starts provides a tool to predict future spending. The $ reported here are the results of a cash flow analysis using Dodge Data & Analytics Construction Starts. Do keep in mind the DDA Starts value represents a survey of about 50% to 60% of the industry. While the percent change of values from year to year is relevant, the $ value does not compare directly to the actual spending $ values.

It is not enough to look at just the change in starts or the change in backlog to get an indication of the strength of the market. While continued growth in backlog is most important, the predicted cash flow from backlog and new starts is necessary for predicting future spending.

Backlog incld Res Starts 2007-2017 3-20-17

Nonresidential Buildings

The last time nonresidential buildings experienced a decline in starting backlog was 2013, Total construction spending on nonresidential buildings in 2013 registered a weak 0.8% gain. Since 2013, nonresidential buildings starting backlog is up 60%, reaching a new all-time high at the beginning of 2017. The previous high in 2009 was $241 billion. In 2016 it was $230 billion. For the start of 2017 it is $248 billion.

Revenues from starting backlog account for 75% of all nonresidential buildings construction spending within the year. If no new work started within the year, by year end there would be only 25% of the total in backlog needed to support the industry.

Not only is starting backlog higher coming into 2017, but also spending from backlog is predicted up by 5% and 2017 new starts are predicted up 8%. New starts are very strong in Office, Lodging, Educational, Healthcare and Amusement/Recreation.

This supports my predictions that 2017 will be another banner year for spending on nonresidential buildings, up a strong 10% from 2016. Similar growth is expected in 2018. This will produce a new high in current dollar spending, but will still be 15% below the constant $ all-time highs.

Backlog Cashflow 2017 ONLY 3-21-17

(edit 3-21-17 updated table)

Non-building Infrastructure

Non-building infrastructure experienced declines in starting backlog in 2012 and 2015. Fortunately, in both of those years, new starts were up. For the last eight years infrastructure starting backlog has been near $200 billion, +/- $10 billion. In 2008, the last pre-recession year, backlog stood at $178 billion. At the beginning of 2017, non-building infrastructure backlog is at an all-time high, $243 billion, up 36% from 2008. In the last two years starting backlog is up 20%.

Revenues from starting backlog account for 80% of all non-building infrastructure construction spending within the year. However, because infrastructure projects are long duration, only about 60% of total backlog gets spent within the year. If no new work started within the year, by year end there would still be 55% of the total in backlog needed to support the industry.

In 2016, although starting backlog was up, new starts were down and spending from backlog was also down. That cemented a decline in spending in 2016. New starts in 2016 declined for power, highway, transportation and public works, but due to long duration projects contributing to strong backlog in these markets, spending will be up in all except public works. New infrastructure starts in 2017 are predicted down 5%, but spending from backlog is predicted to increase by more than 10%, and that more than offsets the decline in new starts. 2017 will post a solid gain of 4% to reach a new high in spending and that is expected to increase again in 2018.

Residential Buildings

Residential new starts hit bottom in 2009 and starting backlog hit bottom in 2010. Residential on average has the shortest duration and new starts has a dramatic impact on the amount of available work. Both new starts and backlog are up about 300% from the lows. New residential starts have increased every year since the 2009 bottom, but are still lower than 2006.

Due to the shorter duration of projects, nearly 70% of residential spending within the year is generated from new starts. Unlike nonresidential, backlog does not contribute nearly as much. If no new work started within the year, within a matter of a few months there would be no backlog ETC left to support the industry.

Coming into 2017, starting backlog is up, and new starts are up and spending from new starts is up. But the rate of growth in new starts and spending from new starts is slowing. This is not unexpected after 4 years (2012-2015) of new starts growth averaging greater than 20%/year. The last two years it’s 12%/yr. This leads to a prediction of future spending increases ranging between 5% to 7% for the next two years. 

See Also Behind The Headlines – Construction Backlog

Office Buildings Lead 2017 Construction Spending

New construction starts in 2016 for Office Buildings is setting up a very strong spending growth pattern for the next 2 years.


The five largest metropolitan areas comprise more than one third of total national new starts in commercial-multifamily construction. Total commercial-multifamily starts are up 7%. Commercial starts alone are up 11%. New starts for office projects increased more than 30% in 2016. The following percentages are growth in starts for new Office Buildings. Reference Dodge Data & Analytics New Commercial and Multifamily Construction Starts.

  • New York City-Northern NJ-Long Island -2%, but from 2015 that was up 138%
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana +67%
  • Chicago-Naperville-Jolliet  +22%
  • Washington DC-Arlington-Alexandria  +87%
  • Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington +31%

Office construction starting backlog for 2017 (projects under contract as of Jan 1, 2017) is 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. Also, the share of spending in 2017 from starting backlog is increasing.

Office spending since 2013 has increased every year by an average of more than 20%/year and is expected to continue or exceed that rate of growth in 2017.

Office construction spending reached a new all-time high in September 2016. Growth in office buildings will lead all 2017 commercial construction spending. Spending will be near +30% year over year growth for 2017 with total expected to come in at $91 billion.

Regardless what market fundamentals change for 2017, this work is already under contract and will be the driving force for 2017 nonresidential buildings spending.

See Also these related articles

Nonresidential Bldgs 2017 Forecasts Vary
Nonresidential Bldgs Construction Spending 2017
Behind The Headlines – Construction Backlog

Nonresidential Bldgs 2017 Forecasts Vary


The following table includes my 2017 growth forecast for construction spending in nonresidential buildings compared to the recently published AIA Consensus Forecast which includes individual forecasts from seven economists.

The AIA Jan. 2017 Nonresidential Consensus Forecast can be found here

My 2017 Nonresidential Buildings Spending Forecast can be found here

Construction Analytics ( forecast is based primarily on scheduled cash flow of construction starts in backlog. About 75% to 80% of all nonresidential buildings construction spending in 2017 will be generated by projects that are already underway. Only 20% to 25% of all spending in 2017 will come from new projects that start in 2017.


See my recent blog post on 2017 Starting Backlog here describes in part how I use backlog starts data to generate future spending forecast.

Nonresidential buildings 2017 starting backlog is 45% higher than at the start of 2014, the beginning of the current growth cycle. Spending in 2017 from that starting backlog has increased every year and it will be up 35% over 2014.

This comment I made two weeks ago in a post on Dodge Data 2016 Construction Starts helps explain in part the level of new starts in 2016 that established the pattern I see going into 2017:

“Nonresidential Building new starts in December remained consistent with October and November. Although well below the yearly highs reached in August and September, the final three months helped carry 2016 totals to an 8-year high. Nonresidential Buildings starts for the last six months averaged the highest since the 1st half of 2008.”

Nonresidential Buildings spending for 2016 totaled $409 billion, UP 8.1% from 2015.

Nonresidential Buildings spending in 2017 is forecast to increase to $447 billion, 9.1% over 2016.

The most recent 3-month average seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) is already leading into 2017 starting at $420 billion only 5.5% below the peak in 2008. By midyear 2017 the SAAR will reach a new all-time high.

The widest variances between my forecast and the AIA panel forecasts are in Office, Manufacturing, Educational and Commercial. Here are explanations to support my forecast.

Office project starts at the end of the year increased more than 30% for 2016. Office construction 2017 starting backlog (projects under contract as of Jan 1, 2017) is the highest in at least 8 years, more than double at the start of 2014 when the current growth cycle of office spending began. More importantly, the share of spending from starting backlog is also increasing for 2017.  This is setting up a very strong spending growth pattern for the next 2 years.

Manufacturing buildings new starts dropped 33% in 2015 and 38% in 2016. A disproportionately large portion of both 2015 & 2016 spending was generated from starts in 2014. In 2014, starts had jumped 80%+, but now almost all of that work is completed. For 2017, the amount of spending from starting backlog has dropped 25% from the level of 2016. Even an increase of 50% in new 2017 starts would not make up for that loss.

Educational buildings new starts increased 11% in 2016. But more important is that the total value of starting backlog has been increasing for several years. In 2015, the value of starting backlog increased only 5% over 2014. In 2016 it was 9% and in 2017 it is 13%. Even if new educational starts in 2017 decline by 10% to 20%, 2017 spending is being driven higher by the work already in backlog.

Commercial spending increased 11% in 2016. For 2017, spending from starting backlog will increase 10%, and starting backlog is at the highest level since pre-recession. In fact, spending from starting backlog will be 40% higher than 2014. Since starting backlog generates about 75% of spending within the year, most of the growth in 2017 is coming from very strong starting backlog.

Once again,”Simply referencing total backlog does not give a clear indication of spending within the next calendar year. The only way to know how much of total backlog that will get spent in the current year and following years is to prepare an estimated cash flow from start to finish for all the projects that have started in backlog.”

With few exceptions over the last three years, Construction Analytics, Dodge Data & Analytics and ConstructConnect have provided the most accurate forecasts. We’ll see in Feb. 1, 2018 how we all did when the total 2017 spending report gets released.



Nonresidential Bldgs Construction Spending 2017


This is a first pass at 2017 spending. It will be update in February when December starts and spending become available.

2-1-17 updated to include December data

Nonresidential Buildings spending for 2016 totaled $409 billion, UP 8.1% from 2015. Spending posted increases of 9.7% in 2014 and 13.8% in 2015.

Nonresidential Buildings spending in 2017 will increase to $447 billion, 9.1% over 2016. The most recent 3-month average seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) is $420 billion, only 5.5% below the peak in 2008. By midyear 2017 the SAAR will reach a new all-time high. Office, Commercial, Lodging and Educational markets are all expected to post strong results over 10% growth in 2017.


Office building new starts through August were up only 6% year-to-date but starts in September as tracked by Dodge Data & Analytics reached the highest in years. 2016 starts finished at +37% providing the highest amount of work in backlog going back at least 8 years. Lodging starts in 2016 finished up nearly 40%, Healthcare up 20% and Amusement/Recreation up 35%.

Manufacturing – spending will finish down this year, $75 billion vs $78 billion in 2015, but both years are more than 30% higher than the next closest years, 2014 and 2009. Rather than labeling 2016 a down year, 2015-2016 should be described as an extended period of extremely strong spending. 2017 spending will drop the most since pre-recession to $65 billion but will still remain well above 2014. In 2005-2006, manufacturing was less than 10% of total spending in the nonresidential buildings sector. In 2015 it reached 21%. Today it is 18%. Manufacturing in some reports is referred to as Industrial.

Office – spending dropped more than 40% from $65 billion/year in 2007-2008 to $37 billion from 2010 to 2013. Since then it has increased every year by an average of more than 20%/year and is expected to continue that level of growth in 2017. New starts for office projects increased more than 30% in 2016. Office construction 2017 starting backlog (projects under contract as of Jan 1, 2017) is 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. More importantly, the ratio of spending from starting backlog is also increasing for 2017.  This is setting up a very strong spending growth pattern for the next 2 years. Office construction reached a new all-time high in September 2016. Spending will be in the range of +20% to +30% year over year growth for 2017 with total coming in at $91 billion. Office was more than 16% of total sector spending in 2006 through 2008 before dropping to 13% in the recession. Now at over 17%, it has been growing steadily for the last few years. In 2017 it will be 19% of total sector spending. Offices includes data centers.

Commercial/Retail – this market dropped from $90 billion in 2007 to $40 billion in 2010. It has been growing steadily since reaching bottom in early 2011, but has only recovered to an annual total rate of $78 billion. New starts in 2016 increased moderately.  For 2017 spending remains in a tight range between $82 and $84 billion, with total 2017 growth coming in at just over +12%.

Lodging – this market recorded the largest drop of any, falling 75% from $36 billion in 2008 to $9 billion in 2011. However it recorded the strongest rebound of any market climbing 19% to 30% per year for the last 5 years. New starts in 2016 increased almost 40% setting up increased spending from starting backlog in 2017.  In 2017, lodging will grow by 12% with a spending total of just over $30 billion. Lodging is still 2 years away from reaching previous highs. Lodging dropped to only 3% of total sector spending in 2011 but has rebounded to 7% in 2016.

Educational – previous highs of over $100 billion in both 2007 and 2008 are perhaps two years away. However, the rate of growth has been increasing slowly since 2014 from 1% to 4.8% to 6.5% annually. New starts have increased every year since 2012. Expect 2017 educational spending to increase by more than 10% to $98 billion. At peak, educational represented 30% of all nonresidential buildings spending. Now it’s only 22%.

Healthcare – this market 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. 2015 was a moderate growth year, up 5%, but 2016 increased less than 2%. Starts are indicating 5.6% growth to $44 billion for Healthcare spending in 2017. Healthcare has dropped from 14% to only 10% of all nonresidential buildings spending.

Amusement/Recreation – this market hit an 8 year low in 2013 but we’ve had 3 years of excellent growth of 10%/yr or more. 2017 is expected to increase 7.4% over 2016 to a total of $23 billion. This market is only 5%of nonresidential buildings spending.

Religious and Public Safety represent less than 3% of total nonresidential building spending. The religious bldg market has been declining since 2002 and is down 55%. Public Safety peaked in 2009 and has declined every year since, now down 40%.


Also See Forecast 2017 Construction Spending 1-6-17

and  Nonresidential Bldgs 2017 Forecasts Vary

Construction Spending 2016 – Midyear Summary

Summary 2016 Construction Spending


Total Construction Spending for July reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of $1.15 trillion, level with June which was revised upwards by $20 billion or nearly +1.8%. Monthly spending always gets revised in subsequent months. This year every month but May, which remained nearly unchanged, has been revised upwards, by an average of +1.4% and as much as 3.4%. Monthly values are subject to revision for two months after the first release and once again in May of the following year.

This plot, Construction Spending vs New Starts Cash Flows, shows actual spending (SAAR) by sector through July 2016 and projected trends of spending out to July 2017.


Previously I wrote that we should expect a short duration downturn in spending occurring between January and March. The expected monthly spending cash flows that would be generated from uneven new starts over the last two years indicated that a slowdown in spending would occur during the first quarter 2016. As it turns out, first quarter spending was much stronger than expected, averaging $1.17 trillion SAAR, primarily due to outstanding results in February and March for residential spending. But then April and May experienced significant declines, dropping to an average of only $1.14 trillion SAAR, down almost 3% from Q1. Now with June and July spending both up 1% from the April and May lows, it looks like we may be past that short duration downturn.

Total Construction Spending year-to-date (YTD) through July is up 5.6% over the same seven months 2015. Spending slowed in April and May from a 1st quarter average of $1.17 trillion that reached close to a 10 year high and falls just 4% short of the all-time high. However, it must be noted, that compares unadjusted current dollars, values of all dollars current in the year spent.

When comparing inflation adjusted constant dollars, all dollars adjusted to the same point in time, we can see 2016 spending is still 18% below the 2006 highs.


Total spending YTD through July is slightly ahead of what I predicted back in December, but it’s slightly below what I expected for May, June and July . I expect 2nd half spending to average above $1.2 trillion SAAR, but slightly lower than I originally forecast.

I’ve revised my 2016 spending forecast down slightly to total $1.190 trillion, up 7% from $1.112 trillion in 2015.

How does actual spending YTD compare to my prediction at the beginning of the year?

  • Total predicted YTD through July $638.2b,  actual YTD $647.7b (+$9.5bil, +1.5%).
  • Residential predicted YTD $245.1b,  actual YTD $259.2b (+$14.1bil, +5.8%).
  • Nonresidential Bldgs predicted YTD $236.9b,  actual YTD $228.1b (-$8.8bil, -3.7%).
  • Non-building Infrastr predicted YTD $156.2b,  actual YTD $160.5b (+$4.3bil, +2.8%).

Where are the revisions?

The single largest reduction in spending is in Nonresidential Buildings Manufacturing. Although there are other variances, that could account for the entire revision downward. Predicted construction starts for Manufacturing was lowered by nearly 35% after the initial start-of-year forecast was made.

Non-building Infrastructure spending increase is being supported by a 20%+ increase in power, which I didn’t expect. New starts for power projects have increased more than 20% since the initial forecast.

Residential construction had unusually large gains in February and March, almost all of that in residential renovations, offset only partially in April through July by declines mostly in new single-family housing.

Here’s my revised 2016 spending forecast based on YTD spending and new construction starts through July, compared to my prediction in December 2015.

  • Total predicted Dec 2015 $1,206.2b,   July 2016 $1,189.9b (-$16.3bil, -1.4%).
  • Residential predicted Dec 2015 $473.8b,   July 2016 $481.8b (+$8.0bil, +1.7%).
  • Nonresdntl Bldgs predicted Dec 2015 $439.2b,   July 2016 $410.9b (-$28.3bil, -6.4%).
  • Non-bldg Infrastr predicted Dec 2015 $293.2b,   July 2016 $297.3b (+$4.1bil, +1.4%).

Spending and construction starts are often confused by some analysts who refer to starts data as spending. Starts represent total project value recorded in the month the project begins. To determine spending activity, starts values must be spread out over the duration of the projects. Spending is dependent on cash flows each month generated from all previous construction starts. Cash flows expected based on Dodge Data construction starts are indicating a return to growth in spending in the 2nd half 2016. (See chart above Index Actual Construction Spending vs New Starts Cashflows).


Spending Breakout by Sector

Residential  construction spending for July totaled a SAAR of $452 billion, remaining near level for the last four months. Residential spending YTD through July is up 6.5% over 2015. Spending slowed in April and May from a very strong 1st quarter average that reached close to a 10 year high. The current 3-month average is just 1% below the 1st quarter and is still at its highest since the 2nd half of 2007 but is 10% below the current dollar all-time high in 2006. I’m still expecting some upward revisions to June or July residential spending.

Residential spending just experienced the strongest three-year stretch of spending growth on record, up 60% in 2013-2014-2015. After taking out inflation, volume growth was only 31%, but that is still the strongest ever for three consecutive years. Spending growth in 2016 will reach only +9%. After adjusting for inflation that represents volume growth of less than +4%, the slowest in 5 years. New starts YTD (as reported by Dodge Data) although down from the 1st quarter, are still near post-recession highs. Starts from late 2015 and early 2016 will still be generating spending into early 2017. 2017 will repeat nearly identical to 2016. What we may be seeing is that it might be difficult to register another year of very high percentage growth in 2016 or 2017 because it is being measured against the 2015 10-year high. Another factor limiting very high growth may be a limited supply of labor to expand the workforce.

Total Nonresidential SAAR spending for July is $701 billion, down slightly from June, but monthly SAAR has varied only +/- 1% for the last six months. YTD spending compared to 2015 is up 5.1%. Nonresidential spending also slowed in April and May but is now up 1.5% from those lows. The current 3-month average is up slightly from the 1st quarter and is just 3% below the pre-recession 2008 current dollar high.

Nonresidential Buildings spending for July totaled a SAAR of $403 billion, down slightly from June but up 1.3% from the May dip. Spending YTD for nonresidential buildings through July is up 8.0% over 2015. The current 3-month average of $403 billion is up slightly from the 1st quarter but is still 9% below the peak in 2008.

Non-building Infrastructure spending for July fell to a SAAR of $289 billion, down only slightly over for the last four months. YTD spending through July is up only 1.3% over 2015. Spending began to slow in April and May and is now at the 2016 low. The current 3-month average is down 4% from the 1st quarter. However, spending on nonbuilding infrastructure reached an all-time high in the first half of 2014 and has remained near those highs through 2015 into the 1st quarter of 2016.


Public spending average for the 1st six months of 2016 is the highest since 2010 and is up 10% from the 2014 low point. YTD public spending is up 0.2% from 2015. All of Highway plus 80% of Educational makes up 55% of all public construction spending. The next largest markets, all of Sewage/Wastewater plus 70% of Transportation accounts for only 19% of public sending. All other markets combined make up less than 20%.

The biggest mover to total public spending this year is educational spending. Public educational spending is up only 4.0% YTD, but because it represents almost 25% of all public spending, it’s has a bigger net impact of +1.0% on moving the trend up than any other single public market. Public commercial spending is up 36.6% YTD but has only a 1% market share of public work. Highway and street is up 2.6% YTD. At 30% of total public that results in a net move of +0.8%. Office, public safety, power, sewage/waste disposal and water supply are all down YTD by a combined -5.3%. At a combined market share of 21% that nets a -1.1% reduction in YTD public spending.

Private spending is dominated by a 52% market share of residential work. At 6.6% growth that nets 3.4% growth in private spending. Several of the nonresidential building markets have high YTD growth (and/or a large market share of private work); lodging +30%, office +27%, Amusement +22%, commercial +10% and power +8%.  These five markets combined represent 29% of private spending and combined are up +15% YTD for a net impact of +4.4% to private work.

For a base of reference, here’s a few points in spending history.

Total Construction Spending

  • 8 years 1998-2005 up 77%
  • 3 years 2003-2005 up 32%
  • 3 years 2008-2010 down 30%
  • 4 years 2012-2015 up 41%


  • 8 years 1998-2005 up 133%
  • 3 years 2003-2005 up 57%
  • 3 years 2007-2009 down 60%
  • 3 years 2013-2015 up 60%

Nonresidential Buildings

  • 5 years 2004-2008 up 64%
  • 3 years 2006-2008 up 45%
  • 3 years 2009-2011 down 36%
  • 2 years 2014-2015 up 25%

Non-building Infrastructure

  • 7 years 1995-2001 up 56%
  • 4 years 2005-2008 up 60%
  • 3 years 2009-2011 down 8%
  • 3 years 2012-2014 up 19%


See this post for expanded details on Construction Spending – Nonresidential Markets – Buildings and Infrastructure

See this post for expanded details on Construction Inflation

What Drives Construction Spending?

New construction starts drive construction spending.  For all the discussion regarding the monthly rise and fall of spending, most of the spending in any given month is already predetermined since two thirds of all construction spending in the next 12 months comes from projects that were started prior to today. This is commonly referred to as backlog.

The pattern of spending does not follow the pattern of new starts which can fluctuate dramatically.  It follows the pattern developed by the cashflow from all previous starts. Data for new construction starts is sourced from Dodge Data & Analytics. Cash flow is developed independently.  Here’s a much simplified example of cashflow: a new $20 million project start is to be completed in 20 months, therefore we expect this project to generate $1 million of spending every month for the next 20 months.

This plot is an Index, so the ratios of starts and actual spending show the relative volume of each of these three major sectors as compared to each other.

Index Spend vs Starts 2012-Feb2016


Nonresidential buildings new construction starts were elevated for 16 out of the last 24 months. Starts were strong from February through July of 2015. A slowdown occurred in the second half of 2015 but the last four months have been gaining slowly. It looks like the backlog of elevated starts will keep spending rising at least until the end of 2016 before we see a slight dip in spending.

75% of all nonresidential building spending in 2016 comes from projects that were started between early 2014 and the end of 2015. Each month, new starts generate only 4%-5% of monthly spending. As we start the new year, backlog accounts for 95% of January spending. We know a lot about spending within the next few months, but what we have in backlog for December at the beginning of the year from previous starts accounts for only 50% of December activity. We will add about 4-5% more to December backlog from new starts each month this year.

Five out of six times in the last 18 months that nonbuilding infrastructure new construction starts jumped 25% to 50% above the running average it was due to massive new starts in the power sector. Some of these projects are worth several billions of dollars.  While this causes new starts to fluctuate wildly, these projects sometimes take four to five years from beginning to completion, so the cash flow is spread out over a very long period, therefore spending does not experience the same magnitude of monthly change as starts.

80% of all nonbuilding spending in 2016 comes from projects that started from mid-2013 through the end of 2015. New starts each month generate only about 3% of monthly spending.

The average of residential starts for the last three months is higher than any time since 2007 when residential starts were already on the decline by 24% from the previous year. The volume of residential starts predicts that spending should be higher than it is currently. This could mean that some starts have been delayed. Or, it could be because residential starts have the shortest duration, they may be the most difficult to predict spending from starts.

55% of all residential building spending in 2016 comes from projects that started between late 2014 and the end of 2015. New starts each month generate almost 10% of monthly spending.

(6-5-16) RE: a discussion related to a decline in nonresidential permits suggests nonresidential spending will decline. Yes, but at what rate? Permits are directly related to new construction starts. Since every month of new starts has an impact of only 4-5% on nonres spending in every following month for the next 20-25 months, then a 10% drop in permits in a single month would cause only a 0.4% to 0.5% reduction in spending in each of the following 20-25 months. It would take a prolonged trend of declining permits and therefore declining new starts to really see a dramatic decline in spending, and then the greatest effect would be well out into the future.

Welcome to the New Year. What’s Up With Construction?

It’s been about two weeks since I wrote a blog post.  With good reason.  I’ve spent the last few weeks working sometimes 10 or 12 hour days getting all the information for and writing a construction economics report.  Coming soon!

Here’s a few tidbits out of the mass.

The nonresidential buildings construction boom that is going on right now could become an  historic expansion. I’m predicting 13.7% growth in 2016. Added to  8.8% in 2014 and 17.1% in 2015 that could be 39.6% growth in 3 years 2014-15-16.

Only 3 year periods back to 1993 that are comparable: 2006-07-08  40.1% and 1995-96-97  32%.


Total construction spending growth for the 3 years 2014-15-16 could reach 30%.  I forecast 9.7% growth in 2016.

Only 3 year periods back to 1993 that are comparable: 2003-04-05  29% and 1998-99-2000  25%.

Well, there is one more comparable.  The last three years of total construction spending growth for 2013-14-15 was up 27%, so this expansion is already ranked 2nd.

What we see here is the 1st or 2nd most active 3 year period of growth in construction on record back to 1993, and it’s already been happening for two  or three years.

For perspective, residential spending for  2013-14-15 grew 46%! Similar only to residential spending in 2003-04-05 at 48%.

Welcome to the new year.  So let’s go see if we can break some records.

Forecasting Nonresidential Buildings Markets 2015 Results

Here are latest updates for 2015 predictions in nonresidential buildings markets.  Eight firms have posted forecasts for spending growth in nonresidential construction markets.

Actual spending put-in-place for October year-to-date (YTD) is included in the YTD shown at the top of the table.  Don’t expect most markets to change much in the last two months of data. Both Commercial/Retail and Manufacturing have been declining in recent months and are expected to continue to drop slightly.

Once the September YTD data is in, a strong forecast for the year can be made with only three months outstanding. It will be interesting to look back at this chart when the final numbers for 2015 become available in February 2016 to see how we did.  Earlier posts and reports can be referenced to see forecasts from midyear.

MARKETS 12-3-15



Construction Spending 2015-2016 – How Do The Forecasts Compare?

Throughout the year a number of firms provide forecasts of construction spending. Spending projections give us an indication of the level of activity to expect. Here’s a summary of the most recent forecasts.

Spend Compare Totals 2015-2016 Dec 9 2015

Actual spending put-in-place for October year-to-date (YTD) became available December 1st and new construction starts for October became available November 23rd. My GBCo 12-5-15 forecast includes both of those data updates.  Not all these firms have yet incorporated the October data into their analysis and some will update in the near future. Most all of these values will be updated in January. Also, the AIA semi-annual Consensus report, forecasts of nonresidential  buildings only, will come out in January. Again I’ll point out, my numbers have not changed much since July when I predicted $1067 for total, $388 for residential and $397 for nonres bldgs spending in 2015. Click on this link to an older post that shows the midyear predictions for three firms.

Once spending data through September is available it allows an analysis of a select data set that gives a prediction of the year end result within +/- 1%. I use this analysis to check my forecast.  It indicates 2015 should finish with total spending between $1.067 trillion and $1.087 trillion and nonresidential buildings spending between $386 billion and $395 billion. The actual spending total has not fallen outside the statistical range since 2001, as far back as I’ve been tracking the data. I’m confident that total spending for the year will fall within this predicted range.  My 2015 forecast of $1.067 trillion total and $397 billion for nonresidential buildings falls within those ranges.

Spending in any given month is the sum total contributed by all the projects that started and are currently underway. That includes spending from projects that started recently with foundations just coming out of the ground and also projects that started 18-36 months ago that are near completion. Spending patterns are affected mostly by the pattern of starts recorded over the period 12-36 months ago. New starts will generate the next 2 to 3 years of spending. Only if the starts pattern is even in growth will spending be even in growth.  That will not be the case in 2016.

What we do know is that most starts that will generate spending next year are already in place. For the 2016 forecast, new starts booked through December 2015 will contribute 75% to nonresidential buildings spending, 55% to residential spending and 80% to spending on nonbuilding infrastructure.  The pattern of spending will not be a constant upward slope.

This table compares all 2015 values to the final of $330 billion in 2014.  For 2016 each firm is compared to their own 2015 value. Once an actual value is determined for 2015 (which won’t be until March 1, 2016) I cannot be certain if some other firms forecast dollars change or percent floats.  In the Gilbane forecast, 2016 percent would float. This will also affect the 2016 values in the first table in this blog post.

Spend Compare NONRES BLDGS 2015-2016 12-9-15 Shortened version


Construction Spending – Reports of It’s Death May Be Greatly Exaggerated

Is activity climbing or declining?  Will costs go up or down? Will we have a winter slowdown? Where are the markets headed? I read an article this morning that stated “momentum is losing steam.” Is it?

I’ve been gathering Construction economic reports for comparison and I see some predictions for 2016 that frankly are only about what I’m predicting for 2015. To be fair, there are reliable predictions that indicate growth similar to what I predict. When data was available for two thirds or better of 2015 total activity there were still predictions for how specific markets would finish the year that varied by as much as 20% to 30%. In one instance the year-to-date actual through September has already exceeded the year end estimate from one firm. Surprising, once that much actual year-to-date information is in hand that there could be that much variation.

And how will markets perform in 2016?  Here’s a few examples from a variety of sources; educational, healthcare, lodging and manufacturing all have more than one estimate for 2016 growth in the range of 0% to 4%, values that would not keep spending growth up with inflation, meaning volume would actually decline. My estimates for those markets are all 10% or higher. Variations of 10% to 15% in growth are common in the data.

So, here’s a few comments on predictions and on what to expect.

Unless something Earth-shattering happens, there is a select set of monthly data that statistically predicts the yearly outcome for total spending and market spending, within +/-1.5% for a smaller data set and within +/-1% for a slightly larger data set, but you have to wait longer to get that larger data set. It failed once in 14 years, by 1/2 of 1 percent. The same analysis can be performed individually for markets and sectors.  The potential variance increases for some markets to about +/-3%.

The Dodge Momentum Index and the AIA Inquiries index are leading indicators to potential future work.  They foretell activity in the Architectural Billings Index (ABI), which is a leading indicator to new construction starts. New starts provide the future cash flows for spending.

Spending in any given month is the sum of how much can be put-in-place generated by the cash flow from each of the project starts that got booked in the previous year or two, or three for long duration projects.  For the next month the unknown amount is only about 3% or 5% that will be generated by new starts in the most recent 30 days.  The remainder is already booked. Two months out the prediction includes 6% to 10% uncertainty, and so on.

Expect a winter slowdown. It’s not because of the weather. There may be additional repercussions if we experience severe weather, but the slowdown is predetermined because very large starts that got booked from a year to two years ago are reaching completion and dropping out of the monthly spending. Starts can be erratic.  This causes periodic fluctuations in monthly spending.  It’s normal.

Also what may not be apparent is what happens due to the difference in seasonally adjusted (SA) and not seasonally adjusted (NSA) values. Readers most often track the changes in SA values, but spending is generated from cash flow and cash flow is generated from the NSA values. Differences can be huge.  As an example, August starts with an SA of $300bil produce 50% more actual NSA dollar volume to cash flow than February starts with an SA of $300bil. This may cause erratic spending patterns.

Residential spending will slow several percent to a low point in February before resuming upward momentum to finish the year stronger than 2015. Periods of low start volumes need to work their way thru the system and this produces growth patterns with periodic dips.

Nonresidential buildings will slow only moderately in the next few months before we see 15% growth through the middle of the year, only to see another slowdown late next year, leading into a considerably slower 2017. Office new construction starts in 2015 are up 50% from 3 years ago, educational up 25% over same period. Manufacturing starts are down 70% in 2015 and that is still at the second highest ever recorded. Total spending is still strong in 2016 at 10% growth. Major contributions appear from institutional work in educational and healthcare. Office and manufacturing still provide very strong support to growth.

Infrastructure projects spending will decline for the next six months due to the ending of massive projects that started 24 to 42 months ago. There will be large advances in spending midyear before we experience another slowdown later in 2016. I’m currently predicting spending will grow less than 2% in 2016, held down by a 10% drop in Power the second largest component of infrastructure work.

Mixed within the three sectors above are Private and Public spending. Residential is about 98% private and makes up about 50% of all private work. Along with manufacturing and large portions of power, commercial/retail, office and healthcare makes up nearly 90% of all private work.  Private growth is the sum of the parts, predicted at 10%+ for 2016. Public work is all or a large portion of highway/street, educational, transportation and sewage/waste. Along with small contributions from water and a portion of power, these markets comprise 80% of all public work. Again, the sum of parts shows growth at 8% in 2016.

From the middle of Q1’16 to the end of Q3 we will register an annual growth rate of 20%, but due to the dips at the beginning and the end of the year total 2016 construction spending growth will come in at 11%. Construction spending momentum is not losing steam. We are seeing the affect of a few years of erratic growth patterns and a shift from commercial to institutional work.

Spend ALL 2014-2016 PLOT 12-1-15


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