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The AIA recently published the Nonresidential Buildings Consensus Forecast Midyear 2017 report. The consensus of seven firms projects spending growth for nonresidential buildings at 3.8% for 2017 and 3.6% for 2018. The largest growth in the AIA forecast for any building type for both years is 10% for 2017 Retail & Other Commercial. The highest reported total annual prediction from any firm is 4.4% for 2017 and 5.5% for 2018. AIA Midyear Consensus Report July 2017
Construction Analytics forecast for nonresidential buildings construction spending growth is +7.3% for 2017 and +10.7% for 2018. Growth in 2016 was 7.5%.
Year-to-date (YTD) spending for the 1st 5 months of 2017 is up +5.2%, led by Office and commercial, both near 15%. Estimate-to-complete (ETC) for the final 7 months is forecast at +8.1%. Total spending for Nonresidential Buildings in 2017 is forecast to increase 7.3% = $438 billion.
If spending were to slow to 3.8% growth for 2017, since YTD growth is already 5.2%, the rate of growth in the final 7 months would need to fall to only 2.4%. However, the predicted cash flow from construction starts shows very strong spending growth in the 2nd half 2017 and into 2018. Nonresidential Buildings construction starts for the last 12 months posted the highest average since 2007-2008. This is helping boost spending.
Outside of recession years, nonresidential buildings construction spending for the year dropped below 4% annual growth only twice in 24 years, since data has been tracked. In fact, right now spending needs to grow at 4.5% just to stay ahead of construction inflation. So any forecast of spending growth below 4.5% actually might suggest that construction is not expanding, but is contracting. All indications are that there are no recessionary effects right now and economic activity does not suggest we are headed for a non-recession low spending for nonresidential building construction. I don’t expect spending to drop to 4% growth for the next three years.
The pattern of nonresidential buildings construction starts for the last 30 months is indicating spending increases in the 2nd half of 2017 and is setting up 2018 for the highest ever starting backlog and record spending. Even if starts crash to zero growth for the remainder of the year, 2017 spending would drop by less than 1% and we still begin 2018 with record backlog.
New Office construction starts for the last 12 months are the best ever recorded, on track to reach a total 50% growth over two years. Retail/Commercial starts have averaged year-over-year (YOY) growth of greater than 10%/year for the last three years. Educational starts averaged YOY growth of 8%/year for the last two years. These three markets comprise 60% of all nonresidential buildings. Healthcare starts have quietly increased to a record high over the last 12 months. Every market except manufacturing will finish 2017 with new starts totals near or at post recession highs. Manufacturing reached record high starts in 2014 and record spending in 2015. All construction starts $ data in this report references Dodge Data & Analytics starts data.
Construction spending for Commercial/Retail, Lodging and Office construction all remain very strong with 2017 total growth near 15%. Educational (+9%) and healthcare (+4%) both show sizable gains after years of little to no growth.
92% of all construction spending in 2017 is already in backlog projects.
A scenario that would have Office spending drop down to 8.9% annual growth from the track it is on today (+15.4% YTD) would require a highly improbable and unprecedented non-recessionary decline in spending in the remaining months of 2017. To grasp the enormity of the decline needed, it would take canceling 8% of all ongoing office projects or new starts for the remainder of the year would need to drop by 50%.
Educational will show an increase in YTD gains in the 3rd quarter because increasing spending in 2017 will be measured against the lowest quarter (3rdqtr) in 2016. Healthcare may not show sizable YTD gains until 4th quarter, for which 2016 reached lowest spending of the year and 2017 will reach highest.
Total nonresidential buildings spending growth accelerates to 10+% in 2018, led by institutional and office spending.
Nearly all nonresidential buildings construction starts in 2016 are still contributing to spending. Since originally posted they have been revised up by 16%. Since most spending from new starts (approximately 50%) occurs in the year following the start, early spending projections based on original posted starts $ may understate 2017 spending.
Nonresidential construction is comprised of two very different sectors, nonresidential buildings and non-building infrastructure. Infrastructure spending is quite erratic, while nonresidential buildings spending, with only slight variation, has been climbing at a strong steady pace for more than 4 years. Some analysts track nonresidential total spending, but these two sectors perform so differently it is important to break them apart to track trends. Buildings spending is up 2% from Q2’16 and up 5% YOY. In the 2nd half 2017 YOY spending is expected to reach 8% over the same months from 2016. Worthy of note is that non-building infrastructure spending, even though down slightly, just experienced two years of record highs. It will hold down the overall nonresidential total performance, but still finish 2017 near record highs.
See this article from February comparing my starting forecast compared to the Jan 2017 AIA Consensus Nonresidential Bldgs 2017 Forecasts Vary
7-6-17 Construction Spending May 2017 – Behind The Headlines
Headline – Construction Spending for May came in flat compared to April, up 4.5% vs May 2016.
In this latest May report, April spending was revised up by 1% and May 2016 was revised up by 3%. The average revision since Jan 2016 is 3%/month. May 2017 will be revised in each of the next two reports and again with the May report issued in July 2018.
Current unadjusted construction spending is always being compared to previous months revised spending and growth is almost always being understated. Spending has been revised UP 45 times in the last 4 years.
In 2016, the 1st report indicated monthly spending declined 8 times from the previous month. After revisions, spending declined only twice from the previous month. Most MSM articles declaring construction spending was a miss are revised away in following months.
Nonresidential Construction Spending Remains Stagnant in May.
I’ve said this before many times, spending predictions are best tracked based on cash flows from all projects that have started. This is not simply tracking total backlog, nor is it tracking new construction starts. New starts (new backlog) represent only 20% to 25% of total spending within the year. Most spending comes from projects that started in previous years.
Big monthly changes in spending come from unusual fluctuations in starts. Very large projects ending (spending ending), compared to new projects starting, would cause a monthly drop in spending. The reverse would cause an increase. If a record volume month of construction projects that started two or three years ago are now reaching completion, and new starts today are experiencing normal growth not at record levels, then spending will most likely decline temporarily. Most monthly construction spending predictions are predetermined months ago.
Also, Nonresidential construction is comprised of two very different sectors, nonresidential buildings and non-building infrastructure. Infrastructure is quite erratic while buildings spending has been climbing at a steady strong rate for several years. Buildings spending is up 2% from Q2’16 and up 6% YOY. In the 2nd half 2017 YOY spending is expected to reach 8%.
Most infrastructure projects that started in 2015 and 2016 are still ongoing so do not effect much change in current monthly spending. It is projects from late 2014/early 2015 that are finishing that are resulting in the largest share of current spending drops. Worthy of note is that non-building infrastructure spending just experienced two years of record highs, so even though spending is down slightly we will still see 2017 finish near record highs.
Construction Companies Continue to Face Labor Shortage Challenges
Construction Spending for the last 24 months increased +13%, but after inflation actual volume during that period increased only +5.5%. Construction output, (jobs x hours worked) for that same period increased +7.6%.
Why is it that jobs output is growing faster than construction volume? Could it be that shortages are localized, not as widespread as thought? Or perhaps it’s that contractors can’t get skilled workers, so they are hiring more workers with less skill? Maybe contractors anticipate growth, so they are hiring more now to prepare for the future? Whatever the case, jobs are growing faster than construction volume and that is not what should be expected in a labor shortage.
Are contractor’s responses to survey questions about filling job positions based on an anticipated need to staff up to meet revenue growth? If so, that is a major miscalculation to determine staffing needs. This is not as far-fetched as you might think. I’ve talked with numerous contractors in the past who were doing this. As I tried to explain in several previous articles, growth in revenue (or construction spending) doesn’t address how much of the growth is due to inflation. Right now, in fact for the last 24 months, the largest portion of spending growth is inflation, not real volume growth.
If you are hiring to match your revenue growth, you are part of the reason jobs are growing faster than volume. INFLATION!
Is there a Residential Construction Spending slowdown? If so, how significant?
YTD Residential Construction spending for the 1st 5 months 2017 is up 12.2% from 1st 5 months 2016. YTD has been above 12% since January.
Average spending for the last three months is up 4.0% from the average in Q4 2016. That’s a ~10% annual rate of growth. Starts cash flows are indicting flat spending for the next few months but then accelerated spending from late Q3 into the end of the year. Current projected spending for 2017 is $523 billion, +10.5% higher than 2016.
May vs April residential construction spending shows a 0.5% decline. However, April has been revised up once and May has not yet been revised. All months are revised twice after the first release of data. The average revision (to residential data) for the last 16 months is up 4%, the average revision for the last 28 months is up 7%. All revisions for the last 28 months were up. After revisions, there were only two monthly declines in the last 28 months, and both of those were slight.
If new starts collapse to show no gains for the remainder of the year, then based on starts already in backlog and reduced starts for the remainder of the year, spending would be reduced to $513 billion. That’s still 8.5% higher than 2016. Of course, this would be an extremely unlikely scenario. The last time residential construction starts declined for three or more consecutive months was 2010, and the last time there were no gains for six or more months was 2008.
5-1-17 Updated construction spending forecast for 2017. Actual spending is included through March data, first release 5-1-17. Forecast spending includes predictions based on Dodge Data & Analytics (DDA) construction starts through March, released 4-21-17.
Reference Construction Economic Outlook 2017 posted January 2017
5-1-17 Update Overview
Construction Spending in March posted a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of $1,218 billion, down 0.2% from February. February was revised UP by 2.3%, and March data is still subject to revisions, usually upward, the next two months. January was revised UP 1.6% from the initial release.
The 1st release of spending is always being compared to a previous month and a previous year that have already been revised, almost always up. Upward revisions to monthly construction spending in 2016 have been as high as 3.4% and for the year average 1.1%/mo. In the last 48 months, the 1st report of construction spending was down vs the prior month 20 times. The initial value was subsequently revised UP 47 times. After revisions, only nine months were down compared to the prior month.
Total Construction Spending for Q1’17 is 3.5% higher than I predicted in my initial 2017 forecast posted 1-7-17. Construction spending growth from Q4’16 to Q1’17 gives 2017 the 2nd best quarter to quarter start in 10 years, just shy of 2014 which posted the best spending growth since 2005. Nearly all the greater volume in spending over my original 2017 forecast is in residential construction, which, for the last four months, has posted much stronger new starts and spending than anticipated based on DDA projections.
Year over year total spending:
- Jan17r/Jan16 = 4.7%
- Feb17r/Feb16 = 5.5%
- Mar17/Mar16 = 3.6%
Based on history, it is likely that Mar17 will get revised UP. (note: with the 2nd release of March spending, the Mar17 year-over-year value was revised up from yoy 3.6% to 5.0%. The initial Apr17 yoy value was posted as up 6.7% from Apr16. Year-to-date total through April is up 5.8% over 2016, and that will most likely be revised higher.)
Total construction spending in 2017 is now forecast to finish at $1,263 billion, an 8.5% increase vs 2016, supported by a 4th consecutive year of strong performance in nonresidential buildings and a very strong start in residential spending. The SAAR of spending will range from near $1.2 trillion in January to $1.3 trillion in the 4th quarter.
A significant indicator for 2017 construction spending performance is that 2017 year-to-date (YTD) spending is up 4.9% compared to a very strong 1st quarter 2016. In the 2nd quarter 2016 spending dropped and did not return to the Feb-Mar 2016 level until Sept-Oct 2016. In 2017, although growth will slow (but still remain positive) in the 2nd quarter, by Sept-Oct spending will be 5% higher than March. The six months Apr-Sept 2017 compared to the same period 2016 will show growth of more than 8%.
The SAAR of spending on a “current dollar” basis (before adjusting for inflation) is now at an all-time high, just barely eclipsing the highs of early 2006. By the 4th quarter of 2017 spending will be 5% above the previous 2006 highs on a “current dollar” basis. However, on a “constant dollar” basis (adjusted for inflation) we are still 13%-14% below peak spending, perhaps five more years away from the real inflation adjusted 2006 peak.
The SAAR of Residential construction spending increased 6% in the last 3 months. It is up 5.3% from Q4’16 to Q1’17. March YTD (=Q1 2017 total) is up only 8.5% from Q1 2016, because Q1 2016 was exceptionally strong. I’m forecasting residential construction 2017 growth of 8% to 10%. Residential spending in 2017 is forecast at $512 billion, 10.2% higher than 2016.
Total Nonresidential construction spending is up 2% Q1’17 vs Q4’16 and up 2.5% vs Q1’16. Predicted cash flows indicate a strong growth pattern for 2017. I expect total nonresidential spending to finish the year up 7%. Nonresidential construction is better understood by looking at the parts, buildings and infrastructure.
Construction spending for Nonresidential Buildings in Q1’17 is up 1.6% vs Q4’16 and up 6.6% vs Q1’16. The most recent 3-month average seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) is $427 billion, now less than 4% below the previous peak of $444 billion in 2008. By midyear 2017 the SAAR will reach a new all-time high and at year-end it will be near $460 billion.
Nonresidential buildings 2017 starting backlog on January 1, 2017 was 47% higher than at the start of 2014, the beginning of the current growth cycle. Spending within the year has two sources; that generated from new starts within the year and that generated from starting backlog. For nonresidential buildings, spending within the year from starting backlog has increased every year since 2014 and in 2017 it will be 42% higher than 2014.
Nonresidential Buildings spending in 2017 is forecast at $447 billion, 9.0% above 2016. Office spending will lead 2017 with 25%+ growth. Commercial, Lodging and Educational markets are all expected to post strong gains over 10%.
For details on Nonresidential Buildings, See Behind The Headlines – Nonres Bldgs Construction Spending and Nonresidential Bldgs 2017 Forecasts Comparisons
Construction spending for Nonbuilding Infrastructure Q1’17 is up 3.8% vs Q4’16, but down 1.8% vs Q1’16. Nonbuilding infrastructure 2017 growth is expected at about 4%-5%.
Non-building Infrastructure, following two down years, will increase by 4.8% to $305 billion. Infrastructure growth is being led by a very high volume of power generation and pipeline work, up only slightly from Q1’16, but up 10% from Q4’16. Although new infrastructure starts were down in 2016 and are expected to decline again in 2017, the amount of work in backlog at the start of 2017 is the highest its ever been and spending in 2017 is forecast at an all-time high.
For Non-building Infrastructure details see Infrastructure Outlook 2017
Private spending is the highest since Q1 2006. Public spending YTD 2017 vs 2016 is down 7% ONLY because the 1st quarter of 2016 was the highest quarter since 2010, elevated due to highway and bridge spending. Educational and Highway/Bridge, the largest two components, make up almost 60% of public spending. The quarterly average of Public spending has been increasing since Q2’16. By the end of Q2’17 YTD public spending will be up 2.5%.
For all of 2017 Private spending will increase 9%. Public spending could increase 7%, with half the gains coming from educational spending.
Starting Backlog is the Estimate-to-Complete (ETC) value of all projects under contract at the beginning of the period. The sum of all ETC represents current backlog. While continued growth in backlog is most important, the predicted cash flow from backlog and new starts is necessary for predicting future spending.
Revenues from starting backlog account for 75%-80% of all nonresidential construction spending within the year. Not only was nonresidential starting backlog at the highest ever coming into 2017, but also spending from backlog is predicted up by 5% and 2017 new starts are predicted up 8%.
Due to the shorter duration of residential projects, nearly 70% of spending within the year is generated from new starts. Unlike nonresidential, backlog does not contribute nearly as much spending within the current year. 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.
Construction starts, which generate construction spending (cash flow) over the next several years, were originally reported in 2016 as up only 1% from a remarkably strong 2015. However, Jan-Feb-Mar 2016 starts have recently been revised up by a whopping 16%, and the historical trend is that every monthly value in the previous year for the last eight years has been revised up. This adds to predicted cash flow, so has an immediate affect of raising predicted 2017 spending. 2016 revisions-to-date and expected revisions are on track to raise 2016 starts up to 6% growth over 2015.
Starts that are being reported for the current year are always being compared to a previous year that has been revised up, so starts growth is always understated. So far, starts for the 1st quarter of 2017 have been much stronger than expected. Starts year-to-date are down 1.5% from the upward revised 2016 totals, however the historical revision has been in the range of 3.5% to 5%. So, the actual growth in new starts has been remarkably strong, better than forecast in October, and is adding to the basis for increased forecast in future 2017 and 2018 spending.
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.
Construction Analytics (edzarenski.com) 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.
2-1-17 Upated to include Decmber data
Non-building Infrastructure spending in 2016 will finish at $291 billion, down less than 1% from 2015. Spending based on projected cash flow from Dodge Data Starts predicted this drop. The negative drivers were Transportation, Sewage/Waste Disposal, Communications and Water Supply. Power, the largest infrastructure market at 34% of total sector spending, will finish up 3.3%. Highway/Street, 31% of total sector, will finish up 2%.
In 2017, Non-building Infrastructure, following two down years, will increase by 4.4% to $304 billion, due to growth in the highway and transportation markets. In the most recent quarter spending began to recover from 2016 lows posted in August and September. 2017 will be a record year for Infrastructure spending supported by spending generated from the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act and potentially the Water Resources Development Act.
Annual percent growth in new starts (backlog), by itself, is not necessarily a good indicator of spending in the following year. The duration of backlog must be known to forecast spending.
At the beginning of 2016, work in backlog had increased 9% over 2015, but because a large percentage was very long duration work, the amount of cash flow (work put-in-place) in 2016 from that backlog decreased from 2015.
At the beginning of 2017, work in backlog increased only 6% over 2016. What is significant though is that the amount of cash flow in 2017 from that backlog will be up 10%. That is being caused by long duration work-to-complete backlog from 2014 and 2015, which is dominated by spending in the power market. In the 1st five months of 2015, a years worth of Power work started and it’s not yet completed. It’s still contributing to infrastructure spending in 2017.
Although new starts in 2016 will finish down 6% from 2015, starts in 2015 were so strong that 2016 will still be a high volume of new starts. 2015 was up 25% from 2014. So, even though headlines will point to a 6% decline in new infrastructure starts in both 2016 and 2017, due to the distribution of spending from backlog, 2017 spending will post the largest growth in 3 years. 2017 will be a record year for spending on infrastructure, up more than 4% from 2016.
Infrastructure construction starts and spending is dominated by movements in Power and Highway markets. Power/Electric/Gas and Highway/Bridge/Street, about equally, comprise 65% of all infrastructure spending. Transportation/Air/Rail accounts for 15%. Sewage/Waste 8%, Communication 6%, Water 4% and Conservation 3%.
Power is 90% private, 10% public. Highway is 100% public. Transportation is 30% private, 70% public. Sewage, Water and Conservation are 100% public. Communication is 100% private.
Power project starts dropped 25% in 2016 but from the highest annual total of starts on record in 2015. In addition, power had very strong starts in late 2014. All of those very strong starts in late 2014 and all of 2015 are still ongoing in backlog and will contribute to strong spending in 2017. Almost half of all the spending in 2017 is generated from projects that started in 2014 and 2015. Power spending in 2017 will increase 2% over 2016 for a 6th consecutive year of near $100 billion in spending.
Highway/Street, the second largest public market, reached all-time highs in spending from the 3rd quarter 2015 through the 1st quarter 2016. After a 6 month slow down, spending in November again reached a new all-time high. Highway spending in 2017 will grow 5% over 2016.
Transportation hit all-time highs in spending all during the 2nd half of 2015. Spending declined by 6% in 2016 but is still the second highest year on record. It will again equal those 2015 highs throughout all of 2017. Transportation spending in 2017 will grow 6% over 2016.
Projected impact of proposed infrastructure stimulus:
- None of the starts or spending detailed above includes any projections of potential work from future stimulus.
- Infrastructure spending, about 25% of total construction spending, increased more than $25 billion in a single year only once. The average annual growth for the past 20 years is less than $10 billion/year. Although infrastructure growth is always erratic with no growth some years, the average growth for the last six years (post-recession) has averaged $10 billion/year. Some of those years included prior stimulus growth.
- The annual growth in PUBLIC Infrastructure has never exceeding $20 billion in a single year and averages only $7 billion.
- The average growth in infrastructure jobs (excluding all recessionary years because those years would make the result approach zero) is about 25,000 jobs per year.
- Based on infrastructure proportion of all construction, and on both all construction and infrastructure historical maximum rates of spending and jobs growth, it may be unrealistic to anticipate more than $10 billion/year growth in the infrastructure sector. ie., (from current total add $10bil yr1, $20bil yr2, $30bil yr3, etc.) See Infrastructure – Ramping Up to Add $1 trillion for more detailed explanation.
Total construction spending peaked in Q1 2006 at an annual rate of $1,222 billion. For the most recent three months it has averaged $1,172 billion. It is currently at a 10 1/2 year high at just 4% below peak spending. But that ignores inflation.
In constant inflation adjusted dollars spending is still 18% below the Q1 2006 peak.
Current headlines express exuberance that we are now at a 10 1/2 year high in construction spending but fail to address the fact that is comparing dollars that are not adjusted for inflation.
In the 1st quarter of 2006 total spending peaked at a annual rate of $1.2 billion and for the year 2006 spending totaled $1,167 billion. We are within a stone’s throw of reaching that monthly level and 2016 will reach a new all-time high total spending by a slim fraction. But all of that is measured in current dollars, dollars at the value of worth within that year, ignoring inflation.
Adjusting for inflation gives us a much different value. Inflation adjusted dollars are referred to as constant dollars or dollars all compared or measured in value in terms of the year to which we choose to compare. To be fair, we must now compare all backdated years of construction to constant dollars in 2016. What would those previous years be worth if they were valued in 2016 dollars?
By mid-2017 total construction spending will reach a new all-time high, but in constant inflation adjusted dollars will still be 17% below 2006 peak. We will not reach a new inflation adjusted high before 2020.
Residential construction spending is still 32% below the 2006 peak of $690 billion. In constant inflation adjusted dollars it is 39% below 2006 peak.
Nonresidential Buildings construction spending is only 3.5% below 2008 peak of $443 billion. However, in constant inflation adjusted dollars it is 18% below 2008 peak.
Non-building Infrastructure construction spending pre-recession peaked in 2008 at at an annual rate of $290 billion. However, post recession it peaked in Q1 2014 at $314 billion. It is now 8% below the 2014 peak. In constant inflation adjusted dollars it is 12% below the 2014 peak.
For more on inflation SEE Construction Cost Inflation – Midyear Report 2016
October construction spending put-in-place was released today by U.S. Census. This report includes the first revision to September data and the 2nd revision to August.
October spending 1st release came in at $1.172 billion, 0.5% higher than September which was revised up 1.4% to $1.166 billion from the 1st release of $1.150. August was revised up 2.1% to $1.166 billion from the 1st release of $1.142.
I predicted October spending would come in at $1.190 billion. Once revisions to October data are posted in Nov and Dec, we may reach that $1.190 billion forecast. Revisions have averaged over 1.4%/mo this year and 1.5%/mo for the last 4 months.
Average spending for the last 3 months is $1.169 billion, the highest three-month average since May-Jun-Jul 2006.
Year-to-date (YTD) spending is up 4.5% over last year, but this may go even higher once the revisions are in. There is now no doubt that we’ve clearly passed a previously forecast dip in spending that bottomed in Apr-May at $1.142 billion. The last 5 months of spending are all up from the low point and the trend is pointing higher.
My forecast for total spending in 2016 is $1,168 billion, up 5% from 2015. I expect 7.6% growth in 2017.
Residential spending is up 5.5% ytd and is on track to reach a 2016 total of $468 billion, +6.4% over 2015. Last year, peak spending was in September, then residential spending dropped slightly in Q4 2015. This year I expect 2016 spending to peak in Q4, so we should see ytd performance get better as we approach year end. Cash flow from new starts indicates growth of 9% in 2017 spending.
Total Nonresidential spending is up 3.8% ytd, on track to finish 2016 with total spending at $700 bil, up 4.2% over 2015. Almost all the 2016 growth is in nonresidential buildings, not infrastructure. For the 4mo period Jul-Oct 2016, compared to the same 4mo in 2015, all nonresidential spending is up only 1.7%, but the spending trends are not apparent unless we separate nonresidential buildings from non-building infrastructure. For Jul-Oct 2016, compared to the same period a year ago, nonresidential buildings spending is up 7.6% and non-building infrastructure is down 5.4%.
Nonresidential Buildings spending is up 8.2% ytd through October, led by Office, Lodging and Commercial Retail markets. We should finish 2016 up 8.1% with a total at $409 billion vs. $379 billion in 2015. Total sector growth for the last three years is 35%. I’m predicting 2017 spending for Nonresidential Buildings will increase 7.5%, led by Educational and Office spending.
We are currently at what may be 2016 peak nonresidential buildings spending. I’m expecting nonresidential buildings spending to stall or drop 1.5% to 2% over the next few months before resuming growth. This drop may be in large part due to uneven starts from the end of 2014 and beginning of 2015, a period when starts were abnormally high, that are now finishing and dropping out of the monthly spending values. Usual normal growth patterns in starts do not fill the void left when abnormally high volume of projects finish.
Non-building Infrastructure spending is down 1.2% ytd. Infrastructure spending in 2016 will total $291 billion, down less than 1% from 2015. Spending predicted from Dodge Data Starts predicted this drop. Negative drivers are Transportation, contributing -0.9% to overall decline, Sewage/Waste Disposal -1.0% and Water Supply -0.4%. Power, the largest infrastructure market at 33% of total, is up 1.4% ytd so adds about +0.5% to offset some of the declines. Highway/Street, 31% of infrastructure, is up only slightly. Growth resumes in Q1 2017. Although new starts in 2016 will finish down 10%, starts in 2015 were so high that 2016 will still be a good volume of new starts. Predicted spending from starts is indicating 2017 will be a record year for spending on infrastructure, up 7% from 2016.
Public spending is down 1.5% ytd, on track to finish 2016 with total spending at $285 billion, down 1.4% from 2015. Public spending will rebound in 2017, up 6.5%.
Educational spending is 80% public and 20% private. Education accounts for 25% of public work. Educational is by far the largest building type in public work. All the remaining building types contribute only 2% to 4% each.
60% of all public work is infrastructure. Highway/Street accounts for 31% of all public work. Transportation facilities is 11% of public work, Sewage and Waste Water 9% and Water 4.5%.
The biggest drivers of performance in public markets by far are Highway/Street and Educational spending. Highway/Street spending reached all-time highs from Dec 2015 to March 2016 but is currently 10% below that level and will end 2016 down 1% from 2015. In public markets educational is only up 5% ytd, but in October experienced the largest monthly increase in the public sector.
REVISIONS AND YEAR/YEAR COMPARISONS
Census construction data is always revised in the following two months after initial release. Census revises data and incorporates more data from additional sources to update spending values. Census updates all the values for the previous year, usually with the May data release (on July 1) the following year.
For the 1st nine months of 2016, seven of nine times the first release of spending showed a decline vs the previous month. After revisions, the values show no declines vs the previous month. The last 36 months of data shows there were 16 Census releases that originally showed a decline vs the previous month. After revisions there were no mo/mo declines in the last 36 months. Revisions in 2016 have averaged 1.4%/mo and 1.5%/mo for the last 4 months.
In 2015, spending peaked in the months of July, August and September, then dropped slightly and remained flat for the last quarter of the year. This 2015 pattern, along with the issue of revisions noted above, is one of the reasons comparisons of 2016 to same month last year was low for August and September. A growth trend is now in place. Expect this month vs same month last year for the remainder of 2016 to come in near or above +5%.
10-20-16 Starts Point to Robust 2017 Spending
September data for construction put-in-place was released today. Year-to-date (YTD) spending is up 4.4% over last year. With September first data release at $1,150 bil SAAR, this seems to establish that we’ve clearly passed a forecast dip in spending that bottomed in April and May. We’ve now had 4 months of spending up from the previous quarter and all up from the same respective months in 2015.
One thing that stands out in the data; so far every month in 2016 construction spending has been revised upwards after the first data release, by an average of +1.2%. Checking back to Jan 2014, all but once spending was revised up after the first number released.
For the 1st eight months of 2016, six of eight times the first comparison of spending showed a decline this month vs previous month. After revisions, the final values show only one month/month comparison was down.
June data which appeared quite low at first has now been revised up by +1.8% (+$21bil saar), with most of the June revision in nonresidential buildings. Most of the July revision was to residential spending. The last three months of construction spending on average have been revised up by +1.5% each.
So, even though the first print shows September down -0.4% from August, historical data would indicate we could expect September to get revised up, perhaps by 1%+ which would result in September finishing higher than June, July or August. Of course, there is always the chance it might get very little increase, and August could still get revised.
Residential spending is up 5.7% ytd and is on track to finish 2016 at $470bil, +6.6% over 2015. Last year, peak spending was in September, then residential spending dropped slightly in Q4 2015. This year I expect 2016 spending to peak in Q4, so we should see ytd performance get better as we approach year end. Cash flow from new starts indicate growth of 9% in 2017 spending.
Total Nonresidential spending is up 3.6% ytd, on track to finish 2016 at $700 bil, up 4.2% over 2015. Almost all the 2016 growth is in nonresidential buildings, not infrastructure.
For the 3rd quarter 2016, compared to the same quarter in 2015, nonresidential spending is up only 1%, but the spending patterns are not apparent unless we separate nonresidential buildings from non-building infrastructure.
For the 3rd quarter 2016, compared to a year ago, nonresidential buildings spending is up 7% and non-building infrastructure is down 6%.
Nonresidential Buildings spending is up 8% ytd through September, led by Office, Lodging and Commercial Retail markets. We should finish 2016 up 8% with a total at $410 billion vs. $379 billion in 2015. Total sector growth for the last three years is 35%. I’m predicting 2017 spending for Nonresidential Buildings will increase 8%, led by Educational and Office spending.
The market share percent of total nonresidential buildings for each market is:
educ=22%, mnfg=19%, comm=18%, offc=17%, hlthcr=10%, lodg=7% and amus/rec=5%.
Office construction spending 2016 growth will be 20%+, now greater than 20%/yr for three consecutive years. At 17% market share, by far it is the largest contributor to nonresidential buildings spending growth in 2016, contributing +3.7% growth.
Lodging is expected to finish 2016 up 26% and has averaged greater than 25%/yr growth for four years. But lodging has only 7% market share, so contributes only +1.8% growth to nonresidential buildings.
Commercial Retail is up 9% with 18% market share and so contributes +1.6% to overall nonresidential buildings growth. For the three-year period 2012 to 2014, commercial averaged 14% growth.
Educational spending, up 5% at 22% of the market, contributes +1.1% to overall nonresidential buildings growth in 2016. Educational spending should finish 2016 up 6%.
Manufacturing buildings present a unique situation in 2016. Manufacturing is down -2.4% ytd. At 19% market share, that reduces total nonresidential buildings growth by -0.5%. On the surface, manufacturing is lowering total nonresidential buildings growth. Although manufacturing spending is down, it’s still very high, so it’s impact should not be viewed as negative to the overall sector. Spending increased 50%+ in 2014 & 2015. Spending in 2016 will still be the 2nd highest year on record, down only slightly from 2015 but still more than 30% higher than 2014 and more than 50% higher than 2013.
Educational spending is 80% public and 20% private. In public markets educational is only up 4% ytd, but in private markets it’s up 10%. Private spending is driving total educational to $89 billion for 2016, up 6% from 2015. 2016 will be the best year since 2008. 2017 may reach 7% to 8% growth.
60% of all public work is infrastructure. Education accounts for 25% of public work. Educational is by far the largest building type in public work. All the remaining building types contribute only 2% to 4% each.
We are currently at what I expect could be the 2016 nonres bldgs spending peak, with very little gains across Jul-Aug-Sep-Oct. Nonres bldgs spending may flatten or drop for several months before resuming the climb. This drop may be in large part due to uneven starts from the end of 2014 and beginning of 2015, a period when starts were abnormally high, that are now finishing and dropping out of the monthly spending values. Usual normal growth patterns do not fill the void left when abnormally high volume of projects finish.
Nonbuilding Infrastructure spending is down 1% ytd. Cash flows from starts predicted this drop. The biggest negative drivers are Transportation, Sewage/Waste Disposal and Water Supply, each contributing more than 0.5% to the total decline. Power, the largest infrastructure market at 33% of total, is up 4% ytd so adds +1.33% to growth, tempering some of the declines. Spending in 2016 will reach $292 billion, down less than 1% from 2015. Growth resumes in Q1 2017.Although new starts in 2016 will finish down 10%, starts in 2015 were so high that 2016 will still be a good volume of new starts. Cash flows from all existing starts are predicting 2017 will be a record year for spending on infrastructure, up more than 6% from 2016.
My forecast for total spending in 2016 is $1,170 billion, up 5% from 2015. I expect 8% growth in 2017.
See also this post from October Starts Point to Robust 2017 Spending
updated 2-16-17 edited to include 2016 year-end total$ public vs private
The two largest components of Public Construction Spending, by far, are Highway/Bridge/Street and Educational Buildings. These two markets have more impact on the magnitude of public spending than any other markets. All of Highway ($90bil) is public spending. About 80% ($70bil out of $88bil) of Educational buildings is public spending. Together they add up to 55% of all public construction spending.
The next three largest public markets in order are: 70% of Transportation ($30/$42bil); all of Sewage/Wastewater ($22bil) and all of Water Supply ($12bil). These three markets account for only about 22% of public spending. Eight remaining markets, none larger than 3.5% of the total public sector, combined make up ~20% of total public spending. Five of those eight, Office, Health care, Public Safety, Amusement and Power, each account for $8 to $10bil and each is 3% to 3.5% of Public work.
Public Construction Spending average for the first six months of 2016 was the highest since 2010 and is up 10% from the Q4’13-Q1’14 low point.
Public spending finished 2016 down 0.8% from 2015, but that is down from a near six-year high, so spending is still strong. It is still -9% below its 2009 peak.
The biggest mover to total public spending this year is educational spending. Public educational spending in 2016 is up 4.7%. Because it represents 25% of all public spending, it has a net impact of moving total public spending up +1.2%, greater impact than any other market.
Public commercial spending is up 24% but has only a 1% market share of public work so moves public spending by only +0.24%. Power is down -20% but at a share of only 3% moves public spending by only -0.6%. Public components of office, public safety, sewage/waste disposal and water supply are all down by a combined -7%. At a combined market share of 18% that nets a -1.26% reduction in total public spending.
Public spending peaked in 2009 when Educational buildings spending was at its highest. Highway spending has been at or near its peak for the last 16 months but that, with current educational spending, which is still more than 20% below its peak, has not been enough to carry public spending to new highs.
Expected spending predicted from new construction starts gives a much better picture for 2017.
Highway/Bridge/Street starts in 2015 finished just shy of a 6-year high (in 2013) but 2016 was down 13% from 2015. On average 2015+2016 starts are still 5% higher than 2014. Highway projects are long duration, so very good starts from the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015 will still contribute strong spending well into 2017. Highway spending is expected to finish up slightly over 2016.
Educational new starts in 2016 finished the year up 11%, posting a 4th consecutive annual increase and educational spending for 2017 should finish up 10%.
Transportation spending in 2017 should increase 6%.
Overall, total public construction spending in 2017 is predicted to grow by 8% to 9%, the first substantial growth since 2007, reaching new highs in the 2nd half. Educational spending will take the lead in 2017 public work. Historically, public spending increases by less than 10% per year.
A common headline we see when Census releases monthly figures for Total Construction Spending is “Spending Unexpectedly Declines Mo/Mo.” Here’s why that is almost always misleading. Construction spending gets revised, UP, usually. So, the first number released is generally low.
U S Census report for August Construction Spending released October 3 posts August at a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of spending at $1.142 billion, down 0.7% from July and this reduces the year-to-date (YTD) spending from +5.6% last month to now only +4.9% higher than the same 8 months of 2015.
- Construction Spending for Nonresidential Buildings Aug vs July UP 0.4%, 6th monthly increase this year. YTD is UP 8.2% from 2015.
- Construction Spending for Nonbuilding Infrastructure Aug vs July DOWN 2.2%, 5th monthly decline this year. YTD is DOWN 0.4%.
- Construction Spending for Residential Aug vs July DOWN 0.2%, Only 2nd monthly decline this year. YTD is UP 6.2%.
Comparisons using the first print of data almost always reflect a lower mo/mo or yr/yr growth rate than the final actual result because the first print “unadjusted value” is being compared to previous month or last year “adjusted values.” Construction spending, from 1st release to last revision of data, has been revised upward every month since August 2013. That would indicate the first reports of an “unexpected decline” almost always get revised up in following months.
The latest spending release is pending revision for the next two months and then the whole year gets one (usually final) revision in the middle of next year. Sometimes there is a second annual revision the following year.
Total construction spending, from 1st release to last revision of data, has been revised upward in the last 32 months by an average of +2.3%/month. However, the average revisions for the last 12 months have averaged only +1.3%/month. Sometimes the 1st revision is down then the 2nd up. Downward revision is rare. The very strong historical trend is for upward revisions after the first release of monthly data.
Some examples of revisions:
- Total construction spending over the last 12 months has been revised UP 10 of 12 times. The average of all revisions is +1.3%/month. Monthly revisions have ranged from -0.5% up to +3.4%.
- Office spending has been revised UP 4 of 7 times in 2016. The average revision is nearly flat but revisions have ranged from -3% to +6.5%.
- Commercial spending has been revised UP 4 of 7 times in 2016. The average revision is +1.1%/month. Revisions have ranged from -1.5% up to as high as +8% for a particular month.
- Residential spending has been revised UP 6 of 7 mo in 2016. The average revision is 2.1%/month. Monthly revisions have ranged from -1.6% to +7.5%
- Power Infrastructure has been revised UP 6 of 7 times in 2016. The average revision is +4.7%/month. Revisions have been as high as 9% for a particular month.
For 2016, final data won’t be published until July 2017, but so far through July, monthly revisions have reversed 4 out of 5 initial mo/mo declines to increases.
For all of 2013, 2014 and 2015, the average month/month growth rates increased from an initial reading of +0.14% to a final reading of +0.76%.
For all of 2014 and 2015, the average year/year growth rates increased from an initial reading of +8.1% to a final reading of +10.8%.