Construction prices stagnant in October

Overall input prices have expanded 4.3 percent year over year, ABC says.

November 16, 2017

Construction input prices remained unchanged on a monthly basis in October, according to analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics released by Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), Washington. Overall construction input prices have expanded 4.3 percent year over year, while nonresidential input prices have expanded 4.1 percent since October 2016. Crude petroleum prices rose 6.6 percent for the month and are up 7.7 percent for the year. No other input manifested significant price growth in October.

“The construction industry benefited from a one-month reprieve in materials price increases in October, based on today’s release. The fact that materials prices have stabilized should be viewed as good news to the U.S. construction industry,” Anirban Basu, ABC chief economist, says. “Most stakeholders agree that labor costs will continue to rise as America hurtles toward full employment. Significant increases in materials prices would further squeeze construction firms’ profits margins, or alternatively would make it less likely that planned construction projects would move forward.

“Still, on a year-over-year basis, some materials prices are up substantially,” Basu says. “A faster growing global economy, combined with China’s commitment to suppress excess steel manufacturing capacity, has helped to produce a nearly 14 percent increase in iron and steel prices over the past year. U.S. trade policy has likely contributed to a greater than 15 percent increase in softwood lumber prices over the past year.

“Where materials prices will go from here is pure guesswork,” Basu says. “While it is true that the global economy continues to improve, recent increases in commodity prices are likely triggering increases in quantity supplied, at least in certain categories. That supply response should help keep a lid on construction input prices over the next few months even in the context of growing demand for materials globally.”