Economy Watch: Prices for Construction Materials on the Rise

Prices for all 11 subcategories of construction inputs increased year-over-year, and only three saw monthly declines, according to the Associated Builders and Contractors.

Source: Associated Builders and Contractors, Construction Economic Update, February 2018
Source: Associated Builders and Contractors, Construction Economic Update, February 2018

The price for everything that goes into construction (“input prices”) rose 0.7 percent in February, slightly lower than in January, according to the Associated Builders and Contractors on Wednesday. Compared to February 2017, prices are up 5.2 percent. Nonresidential construction materials prices were up 0.4 percent on a monthly basis and 4.9 percent compared to the same time last year.

Prices for all 11 subcategories of construction inputs increased year-over-year, and only three saw monthly declines. Crude oil saw the largest drop in price, falling 7.3 percent for the month, though it is up 16.6 percent year-over-year. Prices were also down for prepared asphalt, tar roofing and siding products (down 4.9 percent) and nonferrous wire and cable (down 2.6 percent).

The largest monthly increase was in natural gas, which rose 23.5 percent in February, the ABC reported. The rise in natural gas prices and drop in crude petroleum is a reversal of what was seen in January, but since the energy sector tends to be volatile, that is not so unusual.

According to ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu, the recently enacted steel tariffs might be making headlines, but steel prices were already rising rapidly before that happened. “Based on today’s report, iron and steel prices rose 7.1 percent from February 2017 to February 2018,” Basu noted in a statement. “The price of steel mill products was up 4.8 percent, while the price of softwood lumber was up 15.6 percent.”