March 17th: PPI jumps again but not for construction.

PPI jumps again but not for construction.

The producer price index (PPI) for finished goods, seasonally adjusted, jumped 1 percent in February after soaring 1.6 percent in January, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. However, the "core" index, excluding food and energy costs, fell 0.5 percent, undoing part of the unexpectedly large 0.9 percent increase in January.

The PPI for materials and components for construction, an intermediate category, rose 0.3 percent in each of the last two months, 0 in December, and 1.3 percent over the year ending in February.

BLS commented: "Rising prices for paving mixtures and blocks, steel mill products, concrete products, asphalt felts and coatings, heating equipment, and millwork outweighed falling prices for fabricated structural metal products, nonferrous wire and cable, treated wood, softwood lumber, and plumbing fixtures and brass fittings."

At the earliest stage of production, the core PPI for crude materials for further processing rose 2.7 percent, following increases of 1 percent and 0.5 percent. The crude index for construction materials rose 0.5 percent in February following drops of 0.9 percent in January and 0.3 percent in December. The index was up 0.8 percent for the year.

Output of construction supplies fell 0.2 percent after changes of 0.1 percent in January, -1 percent in December, and -0.3 percent in November. For the 12 months through February, output of construction supplies fell 0.3 percent.

In other news, the Census released information on characteristics of foreign-born residents (www.census.gov/population/socdemo/foreign/ppl-162/tab01-08.pdf). Of 6.1 million construction trades workers in March 2002, 4.9 million were native-born, 0.3 million naturalized citizens, and 0.9 million noncitizens, a higher percentage of noncitizens than for the workforce as a whole.

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