Construction MMI: Construction spending flat in August

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The Construction Monthly Metals Index (MMI) fell for this month’s value, as U.S. construction spending came in virtually unchanged from the previous month.

October 2021 Construction MMI chart

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US construction spending

housing starts

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U.S. construction spending in August reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,584.1 billion, up minimally from the revised July estimate of $1,584.0 billion, the Census Bureau reported.

Meanwhile, the August rate increased by 8.9% from August 2020.

During the first eight months of 2021, construction spending totaled $1,034.5 billion. The year-to-date total marked a 7.0% year-over-year increase.

Private construction spending reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,242.2 billion, or down 0.1% from July. Residential construction rose 0.4% to $786.6 billion. Nonresidential construction fell 1.0% to $455.6 billion in August.

Public construction spending reached a rate of $341.9 billion, up 0.5%. Educational construction rose 1.1% to $79.8 billion. Highway construction rose 1.6% to $98.3 billion.

ABI continues to show growth

Meanwhile, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI), released monthly by the American Institute of Architects, continued its strong run of growth.

The August ABI checked in at 55.6, up from 54.6 the previous month. However, the design contracts index fell to 56.6 from 58.0 the previous month.

“Despite some concerns about the ongoing impact of the Delta variant, most firms are continuing to report robust business conditions,” the ABI report states. “Firms also reported that they continue to receive many inquiries into new projects, and that the value of contracts that they are signing for new design work is still growing.”

By region, the West led the way with an ABI reading of 57.2. The Midwest (55.2), South (52.5) and Northeast (51.7) also posted billings growth.

This month, the ABI survey asked architecture firms about their return to office plans. Of the responding firms, 65% indicated they had fully reopened their offices. Furthermore, 46% said all or most of their employees had returned to the office. Meanwhile, 19% said some of their employees had returned to working in the office.

Meanwhile, of firms that have either not yet reopened or have partially reopened, 66% said they plan to fully reopen their office at some point.

Construction jobs fall in one-third of metro areas

Elsewhere, citing Census Bureau data, the Associated General Contractors of America (AGCA) reported construction jobs fell in one-third of U.S. metro areas from August 2020 to August 2021.

The AGCA cited uncertainty surrounding the fate of the infrastructure bills in Congress. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi delayed a vote scheduled for last Thursday, Sept. 30 before eventually setting an Oct. 31 deadline.

“While construction activity has rebounded from pandemic lows in many metros, the recovery is fragile,” said Ken Simonson, the AGCA’s chief economist, in a statement Sept. 29. “Extreme production and delivery delays, along with continuing high materials costs, may lead to project cancellations and postponements that cut into job gains.”

Construction employment during the period fell the most in New York City, where it declined 6%. Meanwhile, employment also fell by 6% in Nassau County-Suffolk County (New York) and the Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall metro area.

However, employment rose in 256 out of 358 metro areas. The San Diego-Carlsbad area added 8,900 jobs, an 11% increase.

Actual metals prices and trends

The Chinese rebar price rose by 11.5% month over month to $903 per metric ton as of Oct. 1. Meanwhile, Chinese H-beam steel rose by 2.4% to $867 per metric ton.

U.S. shredded scrap steel fell by 5.1% to $467 per short ton.

European commercial 1050 aluminum sheet surged by 27.3% to $4,724 per metric ton.

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