A number of economic and market reports released in the last few days have pointed to signs of improving conditions in a variety of industries, including manufacturing, housing and employment. If these positive trends continue, the construction market, and in particular sustainable building, may have a bright future ahead of it.
Housing Market Shows Signs of Revival
First, a report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) released on May 22 revealed that existing-home sales went up in April across the United States. According to the organization, completed transactions on single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, rose by 3.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.62 million, up from 4.47 million in March. They are currently 10 percent above the levels from April 2011.
House prices have also gone up. For example, the median existing single-family home price was $178,000 in April, up 10.4 percent from April 2011. This, according to NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun, suggests a broader recovery of the housing market.
“It is no longer just the investors who are taking advantage of high affordability conditions,” he said, adding that “the general downtrend in both listed and shadow inventory has shifted from a buyers’ market to one that is much more balanced, but in some areas it has become a seller’s market.”
On top of that, the Commerce Department reported that home construction is near a three-year high, with seasonally adjusted 717,000 new starts in April, according to the Associated Press.
U.S. Industrial Production and Employment are Ramping, Too
Moreover, April has seen a rebound in U.S. manufacturing, driven mainly by strong motor vehicle sales, whose production went up 3.9 percent last month. However, companies in the computer, electronics and aerospace industries, as well as furniture makers, all reported increased production. The growing health of American manufacturing has been reflected in the fact that the sector added 167,000 jobs since last summer, including 16,000 in April alone.
This growth in employment constitutes 17 percent of the overall job gains seen since the fall of 2011, which stood at 1 million through March 2012. As a result, the unemployment rate has fallen to 8.1 percent, from 9 percent in September 2011.
Regarding the rebound in the manufacturing sector, experts from the Brookings Institution stressed the importance of appropriate policies to help sustain the recovery, given the sector’s level of investment in research and development, its potential to reduce the trade deficit and create well-paying jobs. To that end, they praised the administration’s decision to include nearly $1 billion in its fiscal 2013 budget to support manufacturing initiatives.
Healthier Economy Means More Sustainable Construction
All this points to potential business opportunities for individuals and companies involved in various aspects of sustainable building, including makers of renewable energy devices like solar panels and geothermal pump, as well as architects specializing in green design, and contractors who use local building materials.