Landscape Contractor / Design Build Maintain

JUN 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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Economic News 24 LC DBM This Month in Numbers: New Home Construction, April: Contractors added 32,000 workers to their payrolls in April, cutting construction unemployment to 9.4 percent, down from 13.2 percent a year earlier and marking the lowest April rate in seven years. Total employment reached 6.0 million, the highest level since June 2009. The unemployment rate has fallen from 21.8 percent since April 2010, but the number of workers who last worked in construction has declined by 1.1 million since then, and the industry has added less than 450,000 jobs. The Producer Price Index measuring construction materials prices grew 0.3 percent in March, a slower rate of increase than in February. The index has expanded 1.6 percent since March 2013. Improving weather conditions are expected to get residential and nonresidential construction back on track, leading to moderate growth through the end of the year. Homes sold in the first quarter of 2014 were affordable to 65.5 percent of families earning the U.S. median income of $63,900, according to the NAHB's housing affordability index. The report marked a 0.8 percent improvement from the 64.7 percent of affordable homes sold in the fourth quarter of 2013. The Portland Cement Association's economic forecast predicts cement consumption, measured by construction activity and how much cement is used per project, to grow 7.9 percent in 2014, almost double the 4.5 increase recorded in 2013. Homebuilder confdence remained underwater in May, as the NAHB index measuring builder sentiment fell two points to 45 after an initial report of 47 in April. An index score below 50 indicates more builders view conditions as poor than good. Regional index scores, calculated on a three-month average, were mixed. The South rose one point to 48, the Midwest fell by one point to 47, and the West dropped four points to 47. The Northeast held steady at 33. The National Association of Home Builders' Leading Markets Index (LMI) gained another point in April, improving to an 88 score. The index has added six points since April 2013. The score indicates that the U.S. remains roughly 12 percent below normal pre-recession housing and economic activity, as measured by housing starts, home prices and employment data. 9.4% 45 "The year started a bit slower than anyone could have anticipated, but we still expect housing to play a greater role in aiding the overall economic recovery this year. The job market continues to mend, and that should spur a steady release of pent up demand among home buyers." – David Crowe, NAHB chief economist 88 Single-family starts were held to a 0.8 percent gain in April, reaching an annual rate of 649,000 units, as high prices continue to affect affordability. Applications for building permits, a gauge of future construction activity, increased 8 percent to an annual rate of 1.08 million units. The gains in permits also came almost exclusively from multifamily construction. The multifamily sector is prone to volatility, and the 43 percent surge that led to a 413,000-unit rate in April was reported with a 36 percent margin of error. The margin of error for single-family starts was less than 11 percent. A 43 percent leap in multifamily starts, which includes condominium and apartment construction, pushed total housing starts in April to a 1.07 million annualized rate, a 13.2 percent increase from March's revised 947,000 pace. "For anyone tempted by these shiny headline numbers to conclude all the recent worry about the state of the housing market was much ado about nothing, we suggest you curb your enthusiasm, at least for now." – Richard Moody, Regions Financial Corp. chief economist CrediT: CoMMerCe depArTMeNT Construction Materials prices Housing Affordability Cement Spring Forecast "There is considerable evidence that the economy's growth path has softened during the past several months, but we believe that the underlying economic fundamentals are stronger than the data suggest." – Edward Sullivan, PCA vice president 024-025.indd 24 5/22/14 2:29 PM

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