Building Materials Prices Post Record Monthly Decline in April


Prices paid for goods used in residential construction decreased 4.1% in April (not seasonally adjusted)—the largest monthly decline on record—according to the latest Producer Price Index (PPI) report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The year-to-date decline (-5.4%) in residential construction inputs prices is more than three times larger than the previous record (-1.3% in 2009).

Building materials prices have fallen 6.6% since April 2019 by -0.6% per month, on average. In contrast, prices increased 0.2% per month, on average, from April 2018 to April 2019. The index now stands at its lowest level since August 2017.

Prices paid for gypsum products decreased 1.3% in April (seasonally adjusted) after climbing 2.2% in March. The price index for gypsum products has decreased 4.4% in 2020 and has fallen 9.5% since its most recent peak in March 2018.

Gypsum product prices have declined 4.4% YTD, the largest January-to-April decrease since seasonally adjusted data became available in 2012.

Although the PPI report shows that softwood lumber prices declined 10.8% (seasonally adjusted) in April, the decrease is at odds with recent prices reported by Random Lengths.  According to their weekly data, prices fell a more modest 2.7% over the month.

The discrepancy between the BLS and Random Lengths data stems from known differences in survey timing.  We anticipated this in last month’s PPI post, in which we stated that the decline over the last 10 days of March “should be captured in next month’s PPI report.”

Prices paid for ready-mix concrete (RMC) decreased 0.4% in April (seasonally adjusted), following a 0.7% increase in March. The RMC index has increased 1.1% year-to-date (YTD), which is close to the historical average YTD price change in April.

Prices were little changed from March to April in the Northeast (unchanged), Midwest (-0.2%), and South (-0.1%), but increased 1.9% in the West region (not seasonally adjusted). Since the beginning of 2020, RMC prices have decreased 3.2% in the Midwest but have climbed 5.0%, 1.1%, and 0.5% in the South, West, and Northeast, respectively.

Other changes in indexes relevant to home building are shown below.


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