Vol. 3, No.51 December 16-19, 2003
The Data DIGest
Ken Simonson, Cheif Economist, Associated General Contractors of America
Phone: 703-837-5313 Fax: 703-837-5407

States show wide variance in jobs, population, revenues; Nov. output, housing soar

Nonfarm payroll employment by state, seasonally adjusted, grew from November 2002 to November 2003 in 26 states plus the District of Columbia and declined in 24, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported today. Gains in construction employment were more widespread: 31 states plus DC, with only 18 states reporting drops. (Hawaii did not report). The biggest construction employment pickup was in Georgia (9%), followed by Nevada (8%), Louisiana and Indiana (both 7%), and New Mexico (6%). The largest losses were in New Hampshire (-8%), Colorado (-6%), Massachusetts and Wisconsin (both -5%).

U.S. population grew 1% to 290.8 million in the year ending July 1, 2003, the Census Bureau reported Thursday (http://eire.census.gov/popest/data/states.php). That growth rate was a slight deceleration from the 1.1% growth in the prior 12 months. DC lost 5,773 people (1%) and North Dakota lost a minimal 74; every other state gained. For the 17th consecutive year, Nevada was the fastest-growing state, up 3.4%. A little more than half the growth came from natural increase (births-deaths), with the rest from net migration. But there were sharp differences among states in the sources of growth, a fact with implications for the types of construction that will be needed. For instance, the birth rate in West Virginia was so low that deaths exceeded births but in-migration from other states and abroad enabled the state to pass six others and DC in rate of overall growth. Conversely, Utah had the highest birth rate (2% of its July 2002 population, vs. a national rate of 1.4%) but migration to other states held down the overall growth rate to 8th fastest.

Personal, corporate and sales state tax revenues all rose in the third quarter for the first time since mid-2001, the Rockefeller Institute reported in its December State Revenue Report (www.rockinst.org). Growth occurred in all eight regions of the country, although revenue in the five Great Lakes states would have declined but for legislated tax increases. The author, Nicholas Jenny, concluded, "Nevertheless, state tax revenue growth is still lagging behind national economic growth as measured by the gross domestic product. Employment data indicated furthermore that economic growth is very uneven across the country with strong growth in some areas and persistent weakness in others. It is likely that this unevenness will be reflected in state budgets…"

Industrial production at factories, mines and utilities climbed 0.9% in November, seasonally adjusted, the biggest rise in four years, the Federal Reserve reported Tuesday. Factory output also rose 0.9%, after rising 0.3% in October, and stood 1.8% above the year-ago level. Output of construction supplies rose for the fifth month in a row, with a second straight 1% gain; the level was 1.4% higher than in November 2002. Capacity utilization in factories, an early indicator of possible future demand for factory construction, moved up 0.8% to 74.3% in November but remained far below its long-run average (80.2%). The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that real estate firms report "a rebound for the warehouse part of the industrial real-estate market. But the high-tech and manufacturing real-estate sectors are still weak….Office-service real estate-a mix of back offices and warehouse or showroom space-also is picking up."

Housing starts soared to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 2,070,000 in November, the government reported Tuesday-the highest rate in nearly 20 years and nearly 18% higher than the year-ago rate. Single-family starts reached their highest pace ever-1,695,000 units, 21% higher than in November 2002. Multi-unit starts climbed 5% from a year before to a rate of 375,000. Building permits, a reliable indicator of starts in the next few months, dropped 5% from October but were 6% higher than a year ago.

The consumer price index for all urban consumers (CPI-U) dropped 0.2% in November, seasonally adjusted, BLS reported Tuesday. For the past 12 months, the index has risen only 1.8%, the slowest rate in decades. The CPI for urban wage earners and clerical workers (CPI-W) has climbed just 1.6% in that time.

Real (net-of-inflation) average weekly earnings rose 0.6% in November from October, seasonally adjusted, and 2.1% from November 2002, BLS reported Tuesday. Over the year, average hourly earnings of construction workers moved up 2% without adjusting for inflation to $19.07 (23% higher than the average for all private production or nonsupervisory workers). Average weekly earnings in construction went up 2.8%, as weekly hours rose. The weekly rise was 1.2% net of inflation.

"The nation's health care and social assistance sector registered an 8% increase in revenues last year," Census reported Tuesday. Hospital revenues climbed 10%, with the portion paid by private insurance rising 11%. Revenues of private physicians' offices rose 8%; the private insurance piece was up 9%. The figures help explain the rise in both health-insurance premiums and health-care construction that have occurred in 2003 and appear likely to continue in 2004.

The Data DIGest is a weekly summary of economic news; items most relevant to construction are in italics.

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