Average construction material/supply prices declined by 0.2% from November to December. This was the third consecutive month of decline in average prices for this product group composite after steady -- if small -- gains throughout the first three quarters of 2002.
Overall lumber prices fell by 0.4% during December. Only three of the 12 other specific construction product categories that we track from the Labor Department's monthly Producer Price Index survey recorded any increase at all in November or December of this past year.
Gypsum product prices, which had increased by 1.6% during October, fell by 1.0% in November and another 0.2% in December. Other product groups that registered declines in average prices from November to December included ceramic floor and wall tile (-2.3%), asphalt/tar shingles (-1.0%) and structural steel products (-0.2%).
Average prices were lower this past December than during December 2001 for structural steel (-3.3%), asphalt/tar shingles (-2.8%), ready-mix concrete (-1.2%), hand/edge tools (-0.6%) and lighting fixtures (-0.2%). Prices rose from year-end 2001 to December 2002 for lumber (+2.5%), gypsum products (+2.5%), builders' hardware (+1.9%), unitary air-conditioning units (+1.8%), brick (+1.8%), paving asphalt (+0.9%), ceramic tile (+0.8%), plumbing products (+0.6%) and flat glass (+0.3%).
The price composite covering the full range of construction materials and supplies was 1.8% higher this past December than during December 2001. Despite increases throughout most months of 2002, the annual average composite price index for construction materials/supplies ended up less than 1% higher during 2002 than in 2001. And although we forecast that average construction product prices will be up again over the course of 2003, the annualized increase should again be on the order of only about 1%.