The economy sent conflicting signals on construction material prices in March while registering gains in employment, according to the Bureau of Labor Statisitics.
The BLS reported the producer price index, which measures the average change over time in prices domestic producers charge for their goods, slowed in March to a 0.2 percent increase for materials and components used in construction, after rising 0.9 percent in February and 1 percent in January. The agency also reported employment and wage growth for much of the same period.
The producer price index rise from March of last year to March 2005 was 8.2 percent, showing less inflation than the 11 percent year-over-year gain of a few months ago.
Other material price fluctuations the BLS noted include:
- Softwood lumber rose 1.1 percent after advancing 6.1 percent in the prior month.
- Asphalt felts and coatings increased less than they did in the previous month.
- Steel mill products fell more in March than they did in the preceding month.
- Air conditioning and refrigeration equipment, plywood and mineral wool for structural insulation prices turned down in March, while the index for architectural coatings showed no change, after increasing in February.
- Millwork prices turned up 0.3 percent in March, following a 0.2 percent decline in the preceding month.
- Fabricated structural metal products, plastic construction products and switchgear and switchboard equipment prices increased more than they did in the prior month, and the index for hardwood lumber fell less than it did in February.
The PPI for crude materials used in construction rose 0.4 percent in March and 5.5 percent during the past 12 months. The PPI for construction machinery and equipment climbed 0.8 percent for the month and 6.6 percent for the past year.
Construction employment figures
The consumer price index for urban wage earners and clerical workers, used to adjust many wage contracts in construction and other industries, rose 3.1 percent during the 12-month span.
Average hourly earnings in construction rose 1.1 percent from last year, to $19.27 per hour in March. That was 21 percent higher than the all-private-sector average of $15.95.
Construction employment increased in 40 states compared to March 2004, was unchanged in six states and fell in four plus Washington, D.C. These gains were slightly less widespread than from February 2004 to February of this year, when 44 states added construction jobs.
States with top employment gains:
- Nevada – 18 percent
- Arizona, Hawaii and Montana – 10 percent
- Idaho, Oregon and Utah – 9 percent
States with employment losses:
- Washington D.C. and South Carolina – 2 percent
- Illinois and Iowa – 0.4 percent
- Michigan – 0.3 percent
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