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BLS: Construction Materials Prices Inched Up 1% in January

Feb. 16, 2023
Overall input prices are now just 4.9% higher than a year ago, evidence that "the economy is not slowing nearly as quickly as predicted,” says ABC Economist Anirban Basu.

PRESS RELEASE

WASHINGTON, DC, February 16, 2023 — Construction input prices rose 1.3% in January, according to an Associated Builders and Contractors analysis of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Producer Price Index data released today. Nonresidential construction input prices increased 1.1% for the month.

Overall construction input prices are 4.9% higher than a year ago, which is the smallest annual increase since January 2021. Nonresidential construction input prices are also up 4.9% since January 2022.

Good News - Bad News

“Recent employment and retail sales reports indicate that the economy is not slowing nearly as quickly as predicted,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “That is the good news. The bad news is that the economy remains overheated, a phenomenon neatly reflected in the January PPI data, which indicated that construction input price gains accelerated on a monthly basis. For instance, construction machinery and equipment prices expanded 3.4% in January and are up more than 12% during the past year.

“The implication is that the Federal Reserve will maintain higher interest rates longer,” said Basu. “Ironically, it is the current strength of the economy that makes a recession more likely sometime during the next 12 months. At some point, higher interest rates will meaningfully affect economic activity. With industry backlog high, according to ABC’s Construction Backlog Indicator, many nonresidential contractors will feel little to no effect from higher interest rates in 2023. But in certain construction segments and locations, these dynamics could make the next two years more challenging.”

Visit abc.org/economics for the Construction Backlog Indicator and Construction Confidence Index, plus analysis of spending, employment, job openings and the Producer Price Index.