February Non-Res Construction Down 22% From January, Up 3.7% YTD

The drop was considerably larger than the -2.5 percent average decline from January to February, while year-to-date, starts are still ahead of 2015.

Constructiion Market Data (CMD) recently announced that February’s level of U.S. construction starts, excluding residential work, was $19.1 billion, a large drop of 22.2 percent versus January. The long-term average decline in starts from January to February, due to inclement winter weather, has been -2.5 percent.

It should be noted, though, that January starts of this year compared with December of last year were +7.1 percent. There is a usual contraction between those two months, due to seasonality, of -8.5 percent. It would seem that, this year, January’s normal seasonal pullback was delayed until February.   

Compared with February of 2015, the latest month’s starts level was a less severe -5.1 percent. Compared with average non-residential starts in February over the past five years, 2011 to 2015 inclusive, the decline was -8.5 percent. Year-to-date starts, though, are a more buoyant +3.7 percent.

The starts figures throughout this report are not seasonally adjusted (NSA). Nor are they altered for inflation. They are expressed in what are termed ‘current’ as opposed to ‘constant’ dollars.  

The latest Employment Situation Report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) records a 19,000 gain (seasonally adjusted) in the total number of construction jobs in February. This was a slight improvement from 15,000 in January. The average monthly uptick this year (+17,000), however, has fallen short of the performance in the first two months of last year (+39,000).

Year-over-year employment in construction in February rose at a rate, +4.0 percent, that was more than double what was recorded for all jobs, +1.9 percent. The sector also compared favorably with manufacturing (+0.1 percent), government (+0.3 percent), retail (+2.2 percent), leisure and hospitality (+3.0 percent), professional and business services (+3.1 percent) and education and health (+3.2 percent). The jobless rate in construction in February was 8.7 percent, down from 10.6 percent a year ago and 12.8 percent two years prior.

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