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Electrical Marketing's Leading Economic Indicators - Sept. 24 Update

Sept. 24, 2021
Architects see more projects in the pipeline for 4Q 2021.

Single-family building permits slide in July.

Privately‐owned housing units authorized by building permits in July were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,635,000, +2.6% above the revised June rate of 1,594,000 and +6% above the July 2020 rate of 1,542,000. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that single‐family authorizations in July were at a rate of 1,048,000, -1.7% below the revised June figure of 1,066,000. Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more were at a rate of 532,000 in July.

Architects see construction picking up in 4Q 2021 and 2022.

The Architecture Billings Index (ABI) recorded its seventh consecutive positive month, according to the American Institute of Architects (AIA). The ABI score for August was 55.6 points, up from July’s score of 54.6 points. Any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings from the prior month. During August, scoring for both the new project inquiries and design contracts moderated slightly but remained in positive territory, posting scores of 64.7 points and 56.6 points, respectively.

“The surge in design activity continued in August, signifying an expected upturn in construction activity in the fourth quarter and continuing into 2022,” said Kermit Baker, AIA chief economist, in the press release. “This expected expansion will magnify the already serious problems of price inflation and availability of many construction products and materials, as well as the emerging labor shortages in the construction industry.”

Freight rail traffic edges down.

For the week ending Sept. 11, total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 468,610 carloads and intermodal units, down -1.3% percent compared with the same week last year, according to the American Association of Railroads. For the first 36 weeks of 2021, AAR reported that U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 8,293,870 carloads, up +8.2% from the same point last year; and 9,994,693 intermodal units, up +11.5% from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 36 weeks of 2021 was 18,288,563 carloads and intermodal units, an increase of +10% compared to last year.