Construction materials prices were unchanged in August but are 1.7% higher than this time last year, according to a Sept. 16 producer price index (PPI) release by the U.S. Dept. of Labor. Inputs to nonresidential construction, which also remained unchanged in August, are 1% higher than in August of 2013.

“In general, nonresidential construction remains stable, despite the recent uptick in demand for inputs in North America,” said Associated Builders and Contractors Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “There are a number of factors at work, including an unexpectedly weak European economy and a surprisingly strong U.S. dollar. While the Euro has been falling in value, the dollar has been rising throughout much of the year against other major currencies including the Japanese Yen and British Pound. One implication of this has been an increase in the purchasing power of the dollar, which suppresses input price increases.”

Crude energy materials prices fell 4.9% in August and are 6% lower than one year ago. Natural gas prices fell by 12.6% in August and have now fallen in five of the past six months; however, on a year-over year basis, natural gas prices have expanded for 21 consecutive months. Overall, the nation’s final demand prices, as measured by the PPI, remained flat in August but are up 2.2% year over year.

“Considering that this summer has been as mild as the winter was harsh, it’s not the slightest bit surprising that energy prices have dropped in recent months,” said Basu. “In fact, 80% of the decline in overall goods prices, which were down 0.3% in August, is attributable to falling energy prices.”

The following materials prices increased in August:

• Softwood lumber prices expanded 0.5% and are 9.6% higher than a year ago.

• Prices for plumbing fixtures expanded 0.1% in August and are up 3.1% on a year-over-year basis.

• Concrete products prices expanded 0.7% in August and are up 4.2% on a yearly basis.

• Steel mill products prices rose 0.3% for the month and are 4.3% higher than a year ago.

• Fabricated structural metal product prices grew 0.2% for the month and have expanded 1.3% on a year-over-year basis.

• Nonferrous wire and cable prices grew 0.6% on a monthly basis but are down 0.9% from August 2013.

• Prices for prepared asphalt, tar roofing and siding expanded 1.2% for the month but are down 9.1% on a year-ago basis.

• Iron and steel prices inched 0.2% higher in August and are up 3.5% from the same time last year.

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

• Natural gas prices shed 12.6% in August but are 7.8% higher than a year ago.

• Crude petroleum prices fell 2.3% in August and are 11.2% lower from the same time last year.

• Crude energy materials prices fell 4.9% in August and are 6% lower year over year.