The Labor Department's construction materials composite price index declined by 0.2% between August and September. This was the sixth consecutive month of decline for the index, which reached a peak annualized rate of 2.7% inflation during March of this year. The September 2000 composite index level was 0.1% below its reading for the same month of 1999 and a scant 0.1% higher than at the close of last year.
Average lumber prices moved sharply lower again during September, with a decline of 0.8% from the month before. Lumber prices have now fallen for seven consecutive months. Average prices this September were 8.5% lower than during the final month of last year, and 9.3% below their average level during September of 1999.
After the annualized inflation rate for gypsum products soared to more than 23% during the final months of 1999, prices have now fallen for seven straight months during 2000. The price index for this "boom or bust" product group plunged by 3.5% between August and September. This left September 2000 average gypsum product prices 11.4% lower than during the same month last year, and an even-deeper 17.9% below the peak price level reached during February of this year.
Following six consecutive months of rising prices, average roofing material prices turned down in September - an unexpected development given the fact that oil prices continued to rise during the month. The over-the-month decline of 3.7% in this product price index may be only a temporary lull in inflation for this petroleum-intensive category. The Labor Department reported that the September 2000 average price for roofing materials was 4.7% higher than during September of 1999 - the lowest over-the-year rate of inflation for this category since this past April.
Ready-mixed concrete prices rose a sharp 1.1% between August and September, following a four-month period of little change. Concrete was on average 3.9% more expensive in September of 2000 than during the same month a year earlier. On the other hand, average prices for fabricated structural metal used in construction declined for the third consecutive month during September, down 0.1% from the month before. Still, construction metal prices had risen moderately - by 2.2% -- between last September and this September. Ceramic tile product prices have now either declined or held steady for six consecutive months, following a sharp 1.1% drop between August and September. The price index for tile was at a level 3.9% lower this September than during September of 1999.
Housing Starts - September
Consumer Confidence by Region - September
New Residential Building Permits by Region - September
Recent Trends in New Residential Permits for 1999's Top 25 Metro Areas