MetroIntelligence Economic Update by P. DUFFY
Consumer sentiment edges up 2.3 percent but still down 5.7 percent year-on-year
Consumer sentiment was essentially unchanged at 1.5 index points above January. Recent developments in the economy, both positive and negative, have led to mixed attitudes among consumers with little net change in February. After three consecutive months of increases, sentiment is now 6% above a year ago but still 14% below two years ago, prior to the current inflationary episode. Overall, high prices continue to weigh on consumers despite the recent moderation in inflation, and sentiment remains more than 22% below its historical average since 1978. Combined with concerns over rising unemployment on the horizon, consumers are poised to exercise greater caution with their spending in the months ahead.
Price and availability of building materials top list of problems faced by builders
The price and availability of building materials again topped the list of problems builders faced last year, while interest rates (along with general inflation and negative media reports) moved considerably up the list. According to special questions on the January 2023 survey for the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, building material prices were a significant issue for 96% of builders in 2022. The second most widespread problem in 2022 was availability/time it takes to obtain building materials, cited by 86% of builders. Cost and availability of labor has also been a relatively widespread problem, reported as a significant by 82% of builders in 2021 and 85% in 2022, a result that is not surprising given the large number of unfilled job openings in the construction industry.