Landscape Contractor / Design Build Maintain

APR 2014

LC/DBM provides landscape contractors with Educational, Imaginative and Practical information about their business, their employees, their machines and their projects.

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Existing Home Sales, February Economic News After a 10-point decline in February, the NAHB homebuilder confidence index regained just one point in March, reaching a score of 47. Builder sentiment has declined significantly due to harsh winter conditions and a shortage of skilled construction labor and available, ready-to-build lots. Index scores below 50 indicate more builders perceive conditions as poor than good. 12.8% Construction employment improved in February as the industry added 15,000 workers and the unemployment rate declined to 12.8 percent, down from 15.7 percent a year earlier. Industry jobs totaled 5.94 million workers in February, the most in 4½ years and an increase of 152,000 jobs, or 2.6 percent of the workforce, from a year earlier. The unemployment rate has fallen by more than half since it reached 27.1 percent in February 2010, mostly due to an estimated 1.34 million workers leaving the industry altogether over the last four years. Only 438,000 jobs have been added during that span. 47 87 This Month in Numbers: Though the National Association of Home Builders' Leading Markets Index score was unchanged at .87 in March, 32 percent of metropolitan areas measured showed improvement from February. The index score of 87 indicates that the nation remains 13 percent below normal pre-recession housing and economic activity, as measured by housing starts, home prices and employment data. While just 59 of about 350 metropolitan areas have returned to normal, 130 markets are at or above 90 percent of previous norms. 14 LC DBM • Sales Slowing Sales of existing homes declined to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.60 million units in February, down 0.4 percent from 4.62 million in January and 7.1 percent below the 4.95 million- unit level in February 2013. February's sales pace was the lowest since July 2012, when it stood at 4.59 million. • Inventory Increasing Total housing inventory at the end of February rose 6.4 percent to 2.0 million existing homes available for sale, which repre- sents a 5.2-month supply at the current sales pace, up from 4.9 months in January. The unsold inventory is 5.3 percent larger than February 2013. • Demographic Decline First-time buyers accounted for 28 percent of purchases in Feb- ruary, up from 26 percent in January, but down from 30 per- cent in February 2013. "The biggest problems for first-time buy- ers are tight credit and limited inventory in the lower price ranges," said NAR President Steve Brown. "However, 20 percent of buyers under the age of 33, the prime group of first-time buy- ers, delayed their purchase because of outstanding debt." Building permits for residential projects, an indicator of fu- ture construction, increased 7.7 percent to a 1.02 million- unit pace in February, the most since October and the sec - ond-highest rate since the recession ended in 2009. Permits for multi-unit dwellings fueled the growth with a 24.3 percent increase, reaching a 407,000-unit rate. Single- family home permits declined for the third consecutive month, dropping 1.8 percent to a 588,000-unit rate, the low - est in a year. Housing starts fell 0.2 percent to a 907,000-unit annual - ized rate in February, following an upwardly revised 909,000- unit pace in January. Wintry conditions caused starts to slump 11 percent in January. Construction of multifamily projects, such as condomini - ums and apartment buildings, led the decline with a 1.2 per- cent decrease to an annual rate of 324,000 units. Starts on single-family homes rose 0.3 percent to a 583,000 rate in February from 581,000 the prior month. New Home Construction, February CrEdIT: CoMMErCE dEpArTMENT CrEdIT: NATIoNAL ASSN. oF rEALTorS 014-015.indd 14 3/27/14 9:23 AM

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