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Construction Industry Health Assessment with Building Permit Analysis – Data Updates

June 26, 2020

Earlier this month, we explored the concept of using geospatial data to study the impacts of COVID-19 on the Construction Industry here in the United States. To develop this concept, we leveraged readily available data from various sources to ‘paint the picture’. Primarily, we analyzed New Building Permits from the Department of Commerce (DoC) website through early Q2 2020. We also examined cumulative delayed construction projects through the same time frame, within both the public and private sectors. While we should acknowledge that examining the ‘big picture’ impacts of an unprecedented pandemic cannot be summarized by any single data trend, model, or map, this author would suggest that visualizing relevant data within a geospatial representation could lead to valuable insights that might not otherwise be so clearly evident. 

Over the next few months, we will continue to monitor the impacts of COVID-19 on the Construction Industry using data visualization as our guide. As the number of COVID-19 cases in the US continues to rise as we attempt to ‘re-open’ our doors, let us all stay vigilant and protect one another. Stay safe out there!

If you have questions about the research presented herein, or to learn more about VERTEX’s Forensic, Engineering, Construction or Environmental solutions, call 888.298.5162 or submit an inquiry

Updated June 25, 2020

Building Permits Issued by State-Metro Area – Change from April to May 2020 (Data model by Max Elliott, VERTEX)
NE Building Permits Issued – Change from April to May 2020 (Data model by Max Elliott, VERTEX)

Data reflected in the choropleth map above is based on the change in building permits issued from April 2020 to May 2020. At first glance, you might wonder why we’re looking at data that is almost a month old. Simple explanation – the DoC takes roughly two weeks to collect and compile the data, and posts the data on approximately the 17th of the following month. Each month, the DoC also reserves roughly the 23rd  of every month to issue any revisions to the initial report delivered. The most recent report for May offers valuable insights into the market each month, as it covers Building Permits, New Housing Starts, and Housing Completions. For analysis of COVID-19, our focus is on the raw unadjusted data for New Building Permits; as we feel this is the most appropriate to utilize as any kind of ‘leading indicator’ of the construction housing market.

Based on the data collected, we calculated that the unadjusted permit data reflects an increase in 10% from April to May of 2020; this certainly is a positive sign for the market when you consider that we fell off 17% from March to April. But let’s put this in a broader perspective – take a look at the chart below. It compares cumulative US Building Permits in 2020, 2019, 2018 and 2008 through May of each year. You will quickly see that while we certainly were on an accelerated pace prior to April, the rebound in May has brought us back to a similar pace to the past few years. And just for reference, our numbers through May of this year are over 29% higher than May 2008 during the Great Recession. While I’m certainly not suggesting the impacts of COVID-19 are over by any stretch of the imagination, it is certainly promising that Building Permits have seemingly rebounded to maintain a strong pace.

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