A few months ago, I wrote here about the apparent "recovery" that seemed to be taking hold in Florida. I cited the then-previous six months of data from McGraw-Hill Construction that combined to show that the Sunshine State's construction market was beginning to shine again, at least in a relative sense.
Well, the latest data is in, and Florida is continuing to show some positive momentum in terms of new contracts. According to McGraw-Hill Construction, in April, Florida's new contracts for future construction totaled nearly $2.4 billion for the month, a 17% gain over the same period of a year ago.
More importantly, the April figures brought Florida's year-to-date total to approximately $9.3 billion, which is a 27% improvement over the volume estimated for the first four months of 2011.
As I've noted previously, this upturn isn't to be confused with Florida's most recent boom period. The current volume, though definitely improving, still doesn't near that of the state's not-too-distant peak year of 2005, when McGraw-Hill estimated roughly $72 billion worth of projects got started.
But it is something. And the numbers indicate the expansion is unfolding in a fairly consistent pattern, and is not isolated to a few geographic areas.
For instance, three of the first four months of the year have generated increased contracts, according to McGraw-Hill. January contracts equaled a 44% gain; February was up by 25%; and April improved by 17%. Only March, with a 24% drop, came in negative.
On a geographic basis, Florida's largest metro regions are all showing improvement. The biggest metropolitan statistical area (MSA) that McGraw-Hill reports on consists of Broward, Dade and Palm Beach counties. According to the company's latest data through April, these three counties have generated slightly more than $1.3 billion of new nonresidential and residential contracts. (The company does not include figures for the nonbuilding/infrastructure market in its metro reports.) By comparison, that $1.3-billion tally is 44% better than 2011's early pace.
Just behind and closing fast is the Orlando MSA, which has generated more than $1 billion in new nonresidential and residential contracts through April, a 57% jump from the same period of a year ago. And over in Tampa, new 2012 building-sector contracts have totaled an estimated $838.1 million, or 16% better than a year ago.
Of course, it's still early and it's almost certain that the remainder of the year will hold some downs as well as ups. But so far, Florida's 2012 market appears to be beating expectations. For example, in January's "2012 Southeast Construction Outlook" story, McGraw-Hill Construction predicted that Florida's 2012 contracts would improve by 9% overall, resulting in $24.3 billion in new work. At its current pace—and this is not how it works, obviously—Florida contracts would total nearly $28 billion by year's end. Which would be something positive.
So, what do you think? Do these numbers reflect what you're seeing in your local markets? Please share your thoughts!
For additional perspective, below is a February 2012 video by Robert Murray, vice president for economic affairs for McGraw-Hill Construction, commenting on the 2012 Outlook and trends coming out of 2011.