Industry and In-House Business Conditions Improve Again
Comparison over a multi-year period of a tabulation of the value of all the total number of requests for bids published by CAM's News Department three months earlier. In the period from November 2011 to January 2012, 2.8% year-over-year growth in the number of requests for bids published produced a 4.6% increase in the February to April 2012 value of building project contracts awarded for future construction, both new space and renovation of existing space. Then in February to April 2012, the number of bid requests published expanded over 2.1 times from the number of requests published in the previous November to January and in the February to April 2011 periods.

CAM cannot estimate what value in May to July non-residential contract awards might be generated by the February to April bid requests. However, the strong growth in bid requests suggests there is a basis for continued optimism for non-residential building activity. This was confirmed in CAM's early May Construction Activity Index survey of members' opinions regarding expectations for industry business conditions for the next ninety days, May through July, as portrayed in Chart #2.

Each index in Chart #2, as well as in Chart #1, is a diffusion index which is a net percentage of the total responses to each variable queried in the survey and reflects the difference in the number of responses, not the magnitude of the increase or the decrease. An index reading of 50% in one month means that the number of respondents reporting an increase and the number answering a decrease is equal. An index reading above 50% for the most current month compared with the previous month (meaning April vs. March in early May survey) indicates an increase from the previous month while a reading below 50% denotes a decline.

In Chart #2 the opinions of CAM members regarding their expectations for Projects Bid across the industry during the next 90 days - May through July - as measured by their Index, was foreseen as rising 5.4% to 71.9 in April from 68.2 March. And strengthening in building activity was further confirmed by opinions of the outlook for Project Awards whose Index jumped to 75 in April from 61.4 in March. The outlook for an increase in Materials Prices was also higher, up 3.2%, but expectations for Labor Rates remained unchanged and opinions for growth in Workforce Size declined meaning there was slowing in the outlook for the current pace of hiring.

Overall opinions of in-house business conditions as reported in the early May Construction Activity Index, as measured by the All Variables Index set forth in Chart # 1, improved to 65.6 in April from 60 in March, its highest since May 2011.   The Projects Bid Index climbed to 68.8 in April from 65.9 in March surpassing all readings since May 2011. The Project Awards Index rose to 58.3 from 47.7, the first time more respondents reported an increase than respondents indicating a decline, since June 2011. The Materials Prices Index moderated to 78.1 in April from 84.1 in March, despite the fact materials costs were 5% higher than one year earlier and rose at a faster rate than in March. The Labor Rates Index jumped to 65.6 in April from 54.5 in March, while the Workforce Size Index moved to a level of 50 from 47.7.