States, counties report strong gains in overall and construction jobs, housing, revenue
July 22

July 22, 2005
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Seasonally adjusted nonfarm payroll employment increased in 43 states and the District of Columbia and decreased in seven states from May to June, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported today. Over the past 12 months, employment increased everywhere except Michigan and South Carolina. Construction employment showed a similarly strong pattern, rising in 45 states plus DC, remaining virtually unchanged in New Jersey and North Dakota, and falling only in South Carolina (-3%), Michigan (-0.7%), and Ohio (-0.3%). As usual, the biggest gain was in Nevada (16%), closely followed by Idaho (15%), Arizona (12%), and West Virginia (10%).

BLS reported on the number of workers and median weekly earnings by sex and occupation in the second quarter on Wednesday. Among 7,061,000 full-time wage and salary workers in construction and extraction occupations, 6,873,000 (97%) were men, who earned an average of $599 per week. The 188,000 women averaged $406 per week.

On Thursday, the Census Bureau listed the 10 counties with the fastest growth in housing units from July 1, 2003 to July 1, 2004. First was Flagler, Florida (14%), followed by Madison, Idaho; Loudoun, Virginia; Henry and Newton, Georgia; Pinal, Ariz.; St. Lucie and Sumter, Fla.; Paulding and Fannin, Ga.

On Tuesday, BLS reported on employment and wage growth by industry in the 10 largest counties at the end of 2004, based on the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, a broader set of records than those used for the monthly employment report. Employment change from December 2003 to December 2004 was 1.7% nationally and ranged 0 in Cook, Illinois (Chicago and suburbs) to 4.7% in Maricopa, Ariz. (Phoenix and suburbs). Both employment and housing growth figures give a hint as to where numerous types of consumer-related construction will be strong. From the fourth quarter of 2003 to the fourth quarter, the average weekly wage increased 5.7%. In construction, employment rose 4.6% but wages climbed just 3.2%. Among the 10 counties, construction employment grew fastest in Maricopa, 13%, followed by San Diego (San Diego and suburbs), 10%; Miami-Dade and Los Angeles (Los Angeles and suburbs), 7% each; King, Washington (Seattle and suburbs), 6%; Orange, California, 5%; Dallas, 4%; New York (Manhattan only), 0; and Harris, Texas (Houston and suburbs) and Cook, -2% each. Construction wage growth also varied greatly, from 9% in San Diego and 6% in Los Angeles, Miami-Dade, Maricopa, and Orange to 4% in King, 2% in Harris, Dallas, and New York, and 1% in Cook.

Fast-rising state revenue collections are a leading indicator for public construction spending. The Washington Post reported today, “Virginia ended its fiscal year with a $544 million surplus, powered by rising tax collections from a healthy real estate market and robust economy in the Washington suburbs, Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) announced Thursday…. Revenue is rising in dozens of states. On Tuesday, Maryland reported a surplus of $1 billion, while the District has accumulated cash reserves of more than $1.2 billion.”

Building permits increased 2% from May to June, seasonally adjusted, and 5% from June 2004, the government reported on Tuesday. Both single- and multi-unit permits rose on a monthly and year-over-year basis. Housing starts jumped 16% for buildings with five or more units but dropped for single-family units for the month, leaving the overall total unchanged from May. Both types rose 9-10% compared to June 2004. On Monday, the National Assn. of Home Builders reported that its housing market index of builder confidence remained at a robust reading of 70 in July, down from a revised 72 (originally 71) in June.

Several reports on second-quarter corporate activity in today's Wall Street Journal suggest continuing strength in a variety of sectors, including construction, but also possibly delivery delays for construction machinery and materials. “Dick Davidson, Union Pacific's chairman and chief executive, said the railroad-the largest in the U.S. in terms of revenue-isn't able to keep up with shipping demand.” UP had trouble delivering aggregate for making ready-mix concrete in Houston last year and reportedly had trouble delivering cement to some northwest markets this summer. Jim Owens, chairman and chief executive of Caterpillar Inc., which reportedly has had to ship construction equipment without tires because of shortages, said, “The strength of our markets is clearly not a blip on the radar. Our global markets continue to exhibit the fundamental strengths needed for further growth.” Nucor Corp., “which makes joists, decks, and cold-finished steels for commercial- and residential-building markets, benefited from the strong construction market [but] said weak steel-sheet prices will affect third-quarter earnings.” Cemex said “its volume sales for both ready-mix and cement grew in all of its markets” except Germany.

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