Construction totals set record for 13th month

Construction put in place in February set a record for the 13th month in a row, gaining 0.4 percent over January’s figure and increasing 10 percent compared to February of last year.

The value of construction put in place in February totaled $1.047 trillion, the Census Bureau reported April 1. For the first two months of 2005 compared to January and February of 2004, the 10 percent increase was balanced among private residential construction – up 13 percent — private nonresidential building – up 8 percent – and public construction – up 6 percent.

There were large increases for several private nonresidential subcategories:

· Manufacturing jumped 32 percent;
· communication, 30 percent;
· lodging, 26 percent; and
· amusement and recreation, 14 percent.

Commercial, healthcare and office construction all increased moderately, between 6 percent and 8 percent. The two largest public subcategories, educational and highway/street construction, rose 6 percent and 17 percent, respectively.

The producer price index for construction materials and components rose 9.9 percent from February 2004 to February of this year. The Institute for Supply Management reported that manufacturing purchasing executives listed price increases for a range of construction inputs from February to March: aluminum, copper, diesel fuel, freight charges, petroleum-based products, steel, and wood, although some executives listed steel as having dropped in price. The institute reported steel products were in short supply.

In the past 12 months, construction employment has risen 3.6 percent to a record 7,147,000, growing more than twice as fast as all non-farm employment. All five Bureau of Labor Statistics subcategories of construction employment shared in the gains since March 2004. Large employment gains do not seem to be triggering a surge in construction wages, however. Average hourly earnings of construction workers rose just 1.1 percent from March 2004 to March 2005. At $19.37 per hour, construction wages last month were 21 percent higher than the average for all non-supervisory or production workers.