Chief Economist: Alex Carrick

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Reed Construction Data Chief Economist Alex Carrick discusses how current developments in the Canadian economic environment will bring opportunities and challenges for designers, contractors, and materials and services providers.

Economic Forecasts

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    A U.S. Construction Starts Forecast:...

    Much of the U.S. construction outlook begins with housing starts. Nation-wide, monthly multi-family groundbreakings have pretty much recovered to their pre-recession volume (400,000 units annualized). It’s the single-family market that continues to hold back. Single-family starts are only abou...

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    A Comparison of Construction Material and Labor...

    RSMeans monitors construction costs in 318 U.S. and Canadian cities. In an earlier Economy at a Glance, I set out total index comparisons for the 20 largest population centers in the U.S. and the 10 biggest in Canada. This time, for those same 30 cities, the two major sub-components ‒ materials and...

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    iState, Cixi and other Mid-Summer Odds and Ends

    It’s mid-summer 2014 and this seems a good time to diverge from the usual “thick” economic subject matter this column usually espouses. It’s not as if there aren’t quirky stories in abundance to catch our fancy on these lazy, hazy days. But also keep in mind as you read what follows that there’s...

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    Build versus Buy when Cap Rates are Falling

    RSMeans calculates construction cost indexes for 318 cities in the U.S. and Canada. For each city, there is a “total” index which is comprised of two sub-components, “materials” and “installation”. The latter is primarily labor, although it also includes equipment rental. In turn, there are ove...

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    The States and Provinces with the Best and...

    The table that accompanies this Economy at a Glance is straightforward. For the states and provinces of the U.S. and Canada, it sets out unemployment rates according to two criteria: 1) those where the figure is currently 5.0% or lower; and 2) those where it is 7.0% or higher. In other words, it ca...

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    A Super-duper RSMeans Method to Compare U.S....

    The table accompanying this Economy at a Glance is based on data appearing in RSMeans’ quarterly Construction Cost Indexes publication. RSMeans tracks construction costs for 318 cities in the U.S. and Canada. The findings are expressed in index form. (By way of disclosure, RSMeans is owned by ...

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    Ten Mid-July Economic Nuggets

    The outlook for public sector construction spending is receiving a boost from naturally occurring tax increases. As consumer spending and retail sales improve, sales tax revenues increase; as jobs and earnings rise, income tax receipts climb; and as home prices experience further lift, property tax ...

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    Non-residential Construction Start Trends -...

    Clichés are often true and it is the case that a picture can be worth a thousand words. Below are six graphs recording 12-month moving averages of Reed’s non-residential construction starts. When the value of the current month is higher than for the same month a year ago, the line will turn up; w...

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    Non-residential Construction Starts Surged in June

    Reed Construction Data (RCD) announced today that the dollar value of construction starts in June, excluding residential activity, surged 34% versus May. The figures are in “current” dollars, meaning they are not adjusted for inflation. The individual month of June, at $32.0 billion, was one of the...

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    Eagerly Awaiting the U.S. Economy to Say, "I am...

    Greater prosperity will also help bump up “amusement and recreation” construction spending. Continued from Part 1. When public sector funding is required for some of the largest projects in this category, there is another source of encouraging news for our industry ‒ naturally rising taxes. I’ll...

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    Eagerly Awaiting the U.S. Economy to Say, "I am...

    There’s little reason the U.S. economy shouldn’t roar again. The jigsaw pieces seem to be falling nicely into place. The Dow Jones Industrials (DJI) index has just exceeded 17,000 for the first time ever. The nation’s unemployment rate has dropped to 6.1%, which is almost exactly the same as ...

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    RSMeans’ dollar-per-square-foot construction...

    Accompanying this report are tables based on RSMeans’ measures of dollar-per-square-foot construction costs. This month’s results are for four small commercial types of structure – a one-story office building, a day care center, a convenience store and a fast food restaurant. Comparisons with...

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    America’s Jobs Market was ‘Super-sized’ in June

    Forget the 2.9% decline in U.S. “real” (i.e., inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP) in the first quarter of this year. That was largely a bad-weather phenomenon. Instead, concentrate on the jobs numbers. June’s Employment Situation report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics records a mo...

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    The Inflation Monster Creeps out from Under the...

    He hasn’t emerged entirely from under the bed yet, but the inflation monster in both the U.S. and Canada is rattling the frame and otherwise looking for ways to cause trouble. America’s year-over-year Consumer Price Index (CPI) increase in May was +2.1%. Canada’s figure was +2.3%. Both were s...

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    Waiting for the Genie to Fulfill America’s...

    If corporate America is viewed as the legendary genie in the bottle, then the nation has already asked for and been granted two wishes. Stock market indices have been consistently establishing new record highs. And total employment in the U.S. has returned to the pinnacle it achieved before the ...

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    A Ranking of Ontario Cities according to...

    It’s a well-known fact that manufacturing employment in Canada has been in decline over the past decade-plus. Products that last longer, a shift towards the greater use of robotics and that most talked-about factor of all, the outsourcing of work to often non-unionized and lower labour-cost locat...

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    Prosperity Promotes Efficiency and Funds a...

    There are four construction categories that have inordinate influences on our daily lives and, therefore, on our quality of life (QOL). (Part 1 of this Economy at a Glance differentiated between QOL and SOL, an acronym for standard of living.) These are retail trade; accommodation and food services...

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    Prosperity Promotes Efficiency and Funds a...

    In the face of scandals, little spending discipline and a likely debt downgrade, two out of every three voters in Ontario recently chose the status quo, only more so – that is to say, a Liberal majority government as opposed to a minority. The pundits have been out in full force attempting to expla...

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    How to Spend Half a Trillion Dollars for the...

    Ottawa has given permission for Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline project, intended to deliver Alberta oil to the West Coast for sale to Asian customers, to proceed. And so it begins. No, I don’t mean the actual construction phase. I’m speaking of the next stage of roadblocks and obstacles, l...

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    RSMeans’ dollar-per-square-foot construction...

    Accompanying this report are tables based on RSMeans’ measures of dollar-per-square-foot construction costs. This month, the 25 major-city results are for four accommodation-type buildings – a four-to-seven story hotel, an eight-to-24 story hotel, a two-to-three story motel and a four-to-seven story...

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    A Dozen Mid-June Economic Nuggets

    Just when you thought it was safe to follow politics again, Eric Cantor of Virginia, House Leader of the Republicans, suffers a stunning defeat in his own primary from Tea Party challenger, David Brat, an economics professor of all things. Elsewhere, old-guard Republicans have been holding off assau...

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    Huge Percentage Increases in Some Engineering...

    In my previous Economy at a Glance, I may have inadvertently omitted “the lead”. Even taking into account inflation, since the figures are in “current” (i.e., unadjusted) dollars, there have been enormous increases in spending on some of engineering construction’s sub-categories since the year 20...

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    Major Engineering Construction Sub-categories...

    Engineering construction includes many segments of specialization. The biggest of all is oil and gas work, but since that market has been covered extensively, it will be set aside in this Economy at a Glance. There are several other noteworthy categories for which information is not as readily ...

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    RSMeans’ dollar-per-square-foot construction...

    Accompanying this report are tables based on RSMeans’ measures of dollar-per-square-foot construction costs. This month, the 25 major-city results are for four types of buildings: auditorium, fire station, gymnasium and library. Comparisons with other types of structure According to RSMea...

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    U.S. Can Break Out the Bubbly Based on its May...

    With May’s net jobs increase of 217,000 as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, much will be made of the fact the U.S. has finally caught up to its pre-recession level of total employment, at nearly 140 million. There will continue to be “quibblers”. They’ll point out that many potential wor...

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    Canada’s Auto Sector Afterthought Status is...

    The following is a broad-strokes analysis of the Canadian and U.S. auto markets. Relevant information is set out in four accompanying charts. The graphs comparing the two countries are as consistent as the data allows. The Canadian designation “passenger cars” is roughly equivalent to “autos” in t...

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    Among North America’s Major Stock Market...

    The index value of the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) has only now returned approximately to its pre-recession peak. The Dow Jones Industrials (DJI) average achieved a similar milestone, reaching its former zenith, more than a year ago in February 2013. It has been climbing steadily ever since. Th...

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    Start to Completion Time Lines for Various...

    There are many good reasons for wondering what the start-to-completion time frame is for various categories of construction projects. Sub-contractors that specialize in excavation work, structural framing, roofing or cladding ‒ to name only a few ‒ will find their skills called upon at different j...

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    RSMeans’ dollar-per-square-foot construction...

    Accompanying this report are tables based on RSMeans’ measures of dollar-per-square-foot construction costs. This month, the 25 major-city results are for three types of law enforcement buildings, plus a post office. Comparisons with other types of structure According to RSMeans, the ch...

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    How Dominant are Canada’s Major Cities within...

    How dominant are Canada’s major cities within their own provinces? One approach to answering this question would employ population statistics, but city estimates from Statistics Canada generally run a year behind the provincial numbers. Another option would be to compare gross domestic product ...

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    Who Will Raise Interest Rates First?

    In both Canada and the U.S., April’s year-over-year all-items inflation rate was +2.0%. That level is exactly on target with the long-term goal of most central bankers. In Canada, it was the highest rate of Consumer Price Index (CPI) increase since April 2012, two years ago. In April 2013, just ...

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    A Hint of Desperation in Mr. Putin’s Gas...

    Game, set and match to Mr. Putin? When President Vladimir Putin decided to occupy Crimea in the Ukraine, he was undoubtedly emboldened by his knowledge that much of Europe is dependent on Russia for natural gas supplies. This has provided considerable economic and political leverage. Pushback ...

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    The Godzillas among Canada’s Urban Construction...

    This Economy at a Glance will further explore employment data provided by Statistics Canada. It will look at the growth in construction jobs in 11 of the major cities across the country, annual-averages 2000 to annual-averages 2013. For ease of comparison, the series in Graphs 1 and 2 have been ...

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    A Confirmation of Where Canada’s Long-term Job...

    In this Economy at a Glance, I’ll try to keep the text to a minimum and let the graphs do the talking. In this Economy at a Glance, I’ll try to keep the text to a minimum and let the graphs do the talking. Real estate agents like to say “location, location, location” is the most important factor...

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    Thirteen Mid-May Economic Nuggets

    The world economy at this time is a patchwork quilt of industrial sectors that are doing well in one country but poorly in another. Picture clarity is further being confused by public sector policies that are meeting with successes in one jurisdiction but failing elsewhere. Within this context and w...

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    Canada’s April Jobs Report: Some Months You...

    Canada’s total employment in April declined by 29,000 jobs, according to Statistics Canada, taking back much of March’s 43,000 gain. Canada’s total employment in April declined by 29,000 jobs, according to Statistics Canada, taking back much of March’s 43,000 gain. Over the past year in Canada, ...

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    In Foreign Trade and Currency Valuations, It’s...

    Is the Bank of Canada starting to panic yet? The BOC has been betting that a significant drop in the value of Canada’s currency (a.k.a., the “loonie”) would pay off in improved foreign trade. A lower-valued loonie versus the U.S. dollar should promote Canadian manufacturers’ export sales, since...

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    The Traps Inherent in Mega Project Costing

    Blessed with an abundance of raw materials, Canadians have become accustomed to seemingly wild cost estimates for resource-related construction projects. When writing about such works, be they in the private or public sectors, I’m often reluctant to concentrate too intently on their estimated pric...

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    What Exactly is Covered in Some Key Labor...

    When economists analyze and write about labor markets, they usually employ the industry classifications provided in government press releases. Unfortunately for the “man or woman in the street”, these often lack clarity. Both the U.S. and Canada are now supplying data according to NAICS, the Nort...

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    Ontario’s Budget: Sugar Pills Rather than a...

    What Ontario needed in its May 1 provincial budget was a cold splash of reality. What it received instead was more sugar pills. The  reason is obvious. Since the ruling Liberal Party is operating with a minority  government, an election could be called at any time. (In fact, later in this  article, ...