Overall construction materials prices increased 0.4% in April and are up 1.5% year over year, according to the May 14 Producer Price Index released by the U.S. Dept. of Labor. Nonresidential construction material prices were up 0.5% for the month and are 1.4% higher than the same time last year.

“Construction materials prices have increased for five consecutive months, the longest streak in more than two years,” said Associated Builders and Contractors Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “While some may interpret this increase as the onset of a period associated with significantly higher inflation, it seems more likely that the consistent uptick in prices is at least partially attributable to the colder-than-normal winter, which interrupted the usual flow of construction inputs. Nationally, construction spending has not been rising in recent months, which implies recent increases in materials prices are not a purely economic phenomenon.”

Crude energy materials prices fell 3.3% in April but are still 6.6% higher than one year ago. Natural gas prices decreased more than10% for the second consecutive month. Overall, the nation’s wholesale goods prices expanded 0.7% in April and are up 3.1% year over year.

“The nationwide surge in prices is almost entirely attributable to food prices, which increased 2.7% in April alone,” said Basu. “Any crops that weren’t damaged by the harsh winter are now struggling to survive through a drought affecting large portions of the

western United States.”

The following materials prices increased in April.

• Concrete products prices expanded 0.6% in April and are up 3.4% on a year-over-year basis.

• Iron and steel prices increased 1.5% in April and are up 3.2% compared to the same time last year.

• Steel mill products prices rose 1.1% for the month and are 2.2% higher than one year ago.

• Crude petroleum prices increased 0.6% in April and are up 5.4% compared to April 2013.

• Prices for plumbing fixtures expanded 0.4% for the month and are up 2.3% on a year-over-year basis.

• Fabricated structural metal product prices rose 0.3% on a monthly basis and 0.9% on an annual basis.

Five of the 11 key construction inputs did not experience price increases for the month.

• Nonferrous wire and cable prices decreased 1.8% on a monthly basis and are 3.8% lower than in April 2013.

• Prices for prepared asphalt, tar roofing, and siding declined 2.2% for the month and are down 4.6% on a year-over-year basis.

• Softwood lumber prices fell 2.5% and are 8.3% lower than one year ago.

• Natural gas prices fell 12% in April but are 15.1% higher than in April 2013.

• Crude energy prices declined 3.3% in April, but are 6.6% higher year over year.