38 states add jobs in March; Dodge reports starts rebound in March but fall year-over-year

            Seasonally adjusted construction employment rose from March 2018 to March 2019 in 38 states, declined in 11 states and the District of Columbia, and was unchanged in Nebraska, an AGC analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data released on Friday showed. Texas again added the most construction jobs (28,300 jobs, 3.9%), followed by California (24,500, 2.9%), Florida (24,100, 4.5%), Arizona (16,800, 11%) and West Virginia (15,800, 45%). West Virginia again added the highest percentage of construction jobs, followed by Nevada (14%, 12,400 jobs), Wyoming (12%, 2,300), Alaska (11%, 1,700) and Arizona. Construction employment reached new highs (in records dating back to 1990) in five states: New York, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington. Louisiana again lost the most construction jobs (-7,900, -5.2%), followed by Illinois (-4,700, -2.1%), South Carolina (-4,400, -4.2%) and Missouri (-4,300, -3.5%). Vermont had the steepest decline (-7.8%, -1,200 jobs), followed by Maine (-6.7%, -2,000) and Louisiana. Construction employment rose from February to March in 29 states, fell in 18 states and D.C. and was unchanged in Maine, Montana and New Hampshire. (AGC's rankings are based on seasonally adjusted data, which in D.C., Hawaii and Delaware is available only for construction, mining and logging combined.)

            The value of "new construction starts in March advanced 16% from the previous month" at a seasonally adjusted annual rate, Dodge Data & Analytics reported on Thursday. "The substantial gain followed a lackluster performance during the first two months of 2019, as total construction starts in March were able to climb back to a level slightly above the average monthly pace during 2018. The nonbuilding construction sector, comprised of public works and electric utilities/gas plants, jumped 40% in March from a weak February, lifted by the start of a $4.3 billion liquefied natural gas export terminal in Cameron, La. Nonresidential building increased 24% in March, aided by groundbreaking for several large projects. These included the $1.6 billion Toyota-Mazda automotive manufacturing facility in Huntsville, Ala. [and] a $1.1 billion hotel and theater redevelopment in New York" City. "In contrast, residential building slipped 3% in March, as multifamily housing retreated for the second consecutive month. During the first three months of 2019, total construction starts on an unadjusted basis were...down 10% from the same period a year ago. On a 12-month moving total basis, total construction starts for the 12 months ending March 2019 essentially matched the corresponding amount for the 12 months ending March 2018."

            Housing starts in March declined 0.3% at a seasonally adjusted annual rate from February and 14% year-over-year (y/y) from March 2018, the Census Bureau reported on Friday. Multifamily (five or more units) starts fell 3.4% from February and 22% y/y. Single-family starts decreased 0.4% and 11%, respectively. Residential permits slipped 1.7% for the month and 7.8% y/y. Multifamily permits fell 2.7% and 13%, respectively. Single-family permits fell 1.1% and 5.1%. In a commentary, Wells Fargo Economics noted, "Despite the slide, single-family permits remain well above starts, running at an 808,000-unit pace in March. Multifamily permits...are running at a pace of 461,000, more than 100,000 units ahead of starts, suggesting we should see a pickup in building activity later this year."

            "Economic activity expanded at a slight-to-moderate pace in March and early April," the Federal Reserve reported on Wednesday in the latest "Beige Book," based on information collected from March through April 8. The Beige Book is a compilation of informal soundings of business conditions in the 12 Fed districts, which are referenced by the name of their headquarters cities. "A majority of districts cited shortages of skilled laborers, most commonly in manufacturing and construction....Construction firms across most districts...reported net increases in material costs, with several also reporting passing those costs on to their customers." AGC compiled all construction-related comments.

            Census released July 1, 2018 population estimates for metropolitan areas and counties on Thursday. Among metro areas, the highest numerical growth since July 1, 2017 occurred in Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington (131,767 people or 1.8%), followed by Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale (96,268 or 2.0%) and Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land (91,689 or 1.3%). The fastest-growing metro was Midland, Texas (4.3% or 7,383 people), followed by Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, S.C.-N.C. (3.8% or 17,505) and St. George, Utah (3.5% or 5,841). Of the 385 metros in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, 97 lost population, as did all five in Puerto Rico. The largest percentage decline outside of Puerto Rico was -1.6% in Charleston, W.Va., followed by -1.5% each in Pine Bluff, Ark. and Farmington, N.M. The 10 largest metros retained their rankings although the top three each lost population: New York-Newark-Jersey City, N.Y.-N.J.-Pa., -19,474; Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, -7,223; and Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, Ill.-Ind.-Wisc., -22,068. Out of 3,142 counties, 55% gained population, 44% lost population and 12 counties (0.4%) had no change. The county with the largest numerical growth was Maricopa, Ariz., covering most of the Phoenix metro area (81,244 or 1.9%), followed by Clark, Nev., around Las Vegas (48,337 or 2.2%). Among counties with a population of 20,000 or more, Williams, N.D., had the steepest percentage growth (5.9% or 1,955), followed by Comal, Texas (5.4% or 7,583). Population change over time is an important determinant of demand for various types of construction and source of funding for public projects, through taxes and population-based spending formulas.

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