The construction economy continues to boom and with warmer weather upon us we expect it to get even stronger over the spring and summer months. We remain busy at all nine branches, and here are some highlights from the past month across the Carolinas and Georgia:
- Our tilt up business continues to grow by leaps and bounds. We added nine tilt up jobs to our backlog in March alone. Our first quarter tilt up sales were 5X all of last year!
- Our backlog of business is now at an all time high.
- For the twelfth year, we were a sponsor of the PGA Tour’s Heritage golf tournament April 12-18. We got to spend time with a lot of customers and suppliers in a casual, fun environment.
- We added two more experienced outside salespeople in Atlanta as well as another rebar estimator/detailer.
Within the building materials industry, the biggest news we’re seeing right now is around material prices and lengthening lead times, and in my 45 years in this business, I’ve never seen such a demand/supply imbalance. We will keep you posted in these newsletters or via our social media channels if projects end up being delayed or even canceled across the U.S. due to these imbalances.
See below for a closer look at pricing trends for the major products we distribute:
The wild world of the construction materials market continues into April. Supply chain issues, high summer demand, and raw material availability all having major impacts on the price and movement of goods. See below on how all these factors are impacting a multitude of products within the construction industry.
The greatest impacts currently on the price of rebar are overall market demand and transportation costs. Market demands have continued to rise, and expectations are for that to continue as we move into the busy season. Mills are reporting large backlogs with limited availability of sitting inventory. While pricing has remained firm over the past month, if availability becomes an issue, we can expect pricing to rise as a result. The other impacts currently affecting rebar are rising transportation costs and a truck shortage. As a result, one major mill has implemented a 7% increase on freight effective May 1st. This increase will be effective on all purchase orders shipped on or after May 1st regardless of when the purchase order was submitted.
Putting it lightly… the supply chain of wire mesh reinforcing has been decimated over the past two months. Both domestic and international wire rod shortages have crippled the flow of reinforcing mesh into the market. Shortages have been so impactful that multiple mills have had to shut down machines due to the lack of wire rod needed to produce both sheets and rolls. Even with the availability of mesh being constrained, demand for mesh continues to rise. Mill backlogs are massive and lead times are stretching out to over 12 weeks in some cases. This issue does not look to be resolved any time soon and expectations are for the wire mesh market to remain in a chaotic state for the foreseeable future.
The polyethylene sheeting inventory and supply chain also remains constrained. While mills seem to be back up and running at full capacity, the downtime from the storms in South Texas in February is still having an impact. Lead times are slightly better than where they were last month but are still running in the 8 – 10-week range. While we expect inventory to remain tight in the short-term, poly inventory and availability should bounce back quicker than that of wire mesh mentioned above.
Lumber continues to be a roller coaster. While experiencing a few weeks of relative stability, the lumber market is once again in a rapid climb. Lumber again posted up this week and settled anywhere from 40% to 80% up depending on species and size over the prior week’s numbers. High demand and limited inbound inventory are driving this increase. 2×4’s and 2×8’s are still fairly available on the open market, but 2×10’s and larger sizes are becoming less and less available. When these larger sizes do become available, loads are being bought quickly with price being less of factor. There are some opinions in the industry that the lumber market will turn over by the third or fourth quarter this year as mills catch up on production, but in the short term, prices are expected to continue to rise.
The gap between input costs for construction and contractors’ bid prices widened further in March. The producer price index (PPI) for nonresidential building construction—a measure of the price that contractors say they would charge to build a fixed set of buildings—increased 0.5% from February and 1.7% year-over-year (y/y) since March 2020, while the PPI for material and service inputs to new nonresidential construction jumped 2.7% and 12.4%, respectively, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported today. An index that measures the price of goods inputs to all construction soared 3.5% for the month and 12.9% y/y, the largest increases in the 35-year history of the series. AGC posted tables and charts showing PPIs relevant to construction.
Click here for the latest update on the construction economy from Ken Simonson, the chief economist of the AGC.