[NEWS TRACKER] September Construction Starts Drop Negates August Gains

Total construction starts dropped 18% in September and brought the starts to below June and July levels; plus more construction industry news in the October 29, 2020, edition of Construction News Tracker.

Construction News Tracker is presented by Caterpillar and produced by ForConstructionPros.com.

Persistent layoffs are holding back the economic recovery. That from economists reviewing the ongoing high levels of nationwide layoffs and unemployment numbers. The number of new applications for unemployment benefits has risen to 787,000 down from 842,000 the previous week  its recent highest level since August. The number of Americans receiving unemployment benefits has been reduced by a million to 8.4 million.

The Labor Department reports that as companies readjust their headcounts claims continue to clock in at between 800,000 and 900,000 monthly. Economists say that since we're now seven months into the pandemic, there remains incredibly high numbers for initial benefit claims.

Construction starts take a dive but homebuilding looks bright

The gains made in August in total construction starts were erased in September, according to Dodge Analytics. Total construction starts dropped 18% to a seasonally adjusted rate of 667.7 billion in September and brought the starts to below levels seen in June and July. Nonresidential starts lost 24% while residential building dropped 21%. And Dodge reports that year-to-date total construction starts were off 14% through nine months.

Dodge Data reports that while delays are being reported on project completion only 10% of contractors have had to furlough or lay off employees as a result of the pandemic. Fifty-two percent of contractors report a high level of confidence in new business over the next year. If anything, contractors report a concern over the growing cost of building materials in the foreseeable future.

The Commerce Department claims that home construction in the U.S. rose 1.9% in September, a solid number after falling off in August. That takes the seasonally adjusted annual rate to 1.42 million units, which includes apartments. Single family home construction in September surged 7.8% as construction barometers improved in all sectors of the country except the Midwest.

The National Association of Home Builders latest membership survey placed the builder confidence level up at 85 for October.

Portland Cement Association (PCA) has unveiled its annual fall forecast for consumption, and it's not very rosy. PCA market intelligence claims cement consumption will drop by 1.5% for the remainder of 2020 and drop by a scant 9/10ths of a percent in 2021. PCA lays out three scenarios for the nations economic recovery used in considering its forecasts of 2021 and utilizes their results in making the consumption probabilities.

Caterpillar reinvents PAC-MAN

Caterpillar has done it again. You’ll recall the Cat heavy equipment games that began six years ago when Jenga was the game of choice. Now Cat has revised the PAC-MAN games, yep PAC-MAN, as we all will recall the popular game. It took a Cat 336 Next Gen excavator 70 man-hours to dig the 151 corners in a 4-foot deep trench of the 40th anniversary gameboard.

We invite you to view the entire production at Cat Trials 9 using the latest Cat machines, attachments and technology on remote controls. View it on ForConstructionPros website.

Mixed plans for highway construction across the nation

The amount needed is roughly $5 billion, but Minnesota officials are going to be happy with a $1.9 billion package just approved. Lawmakers OK’d the public works infrastructure package recently as a critical economic stimulus amid the coronavirus pandemic. Officials say the bonding part of the legislation will create thousands of much needed jobs as a result.

The road funding situation is just the opposite in the state of North Carolina where rising costs and a drop in revenue brought on by the virus crisis and the economic downturn is creating havoc. The NCDOT has shut down dozens of road and highway construction projects from routine paving to the overhaul of highway interchanges as a result. North Carolina has earmarked some 700 projects affected statewide. This despite $700 million in new bonds for highway projects.

Foxconn changes plans in Wisconsin

Three years ago landmark legislation was passed in Wisconsin to give Foxconn Technology Group billions in tax credits for promising to build a massive plant employing thousands outside Racine. Now the company is not going to receive any such credits from the state for 2019 as they hired only 281 employees and earned only $300 million in capitol expenditures. Tax payers are on the hook for $2.85 billion in tax credits over time if Foxconn meets certain investment and hiring goals.

Foxconn originally planned to build a LCD advanced manufacturing facility and create 13,000 jobs. It has since reneged on the deal and plans to construct a much smaller plant.

In closing, the secret of achievement is not to let what you're doing get to you before you get to it.

This is Construction News Tracker looking over the industry that makes the world a better place, presented by Caterpillar and produced by ForConstructionPros.com.

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