Understanding construction starts

This section contains information about the construction starts data available in Forecast. Included is a definition of historical and forecasted construction starts data, description of how the data is compiled, data sources and organization, update frequency, definitions of the data and a brief overview of the methodology used.

This section contains the following topics: 

What are construction starts? 

Forecast contains both historical and forecasted construction starts data. ConstructConnect reports construction starts in terms of project value (nominal dollars) and square feet. For Forecast, this means that a start value is the estimate of the square foot value or total dollar value of construction work started in a given time period. Reported project values include the costs for labor and materials, overhead, interest and taxes paid during construction and contractor's profits.

There are minor differences in the definition of a start  between the United States and Canada:

 United States 

For the U.S., a start is defined as the date that a project reaches the start stage, as verified and reported by the U.S. ConstructConnect research team. 

Canada

A Canadian start is defined as the date that a project reaches the start stage, as verified and reported by the Canadian ConstructConnect research team.    

What categories are covered? 

ConstructConnect reports on new and existing structures for the private and public sector. The data in Forecast covers the following categories:

Summary categoryPrimary categorySubcategory
CivilCivil
  • Airport - includes Airport Construction,
  • All Other Civil - includes Parks, Landscaping, Railroad & Subway, Sidewalks, Curbs, Gutters, Military Non Building, Athletic Fields & Courts, Swimming Pools, Demolition (Civil), Electrical Work (Civil), Fencing, Machinery & Supplies, Pavement Markers, Tunnels, Miscellaneous (Civil), Sitework, Oil and Gas Pipelines
  • Bridges - includes Bridges & Culverts
  • Dams/Canals/Marine Work - includes Dams, Canals, Flood Control, Marine Work
  • Roads - includes Roads
  • Water & Sewage Treatment - includes Water & Sewage Treatment, Water & Sewage Piping
  • Power Infrastructure - includes Power Lines & Stations
Non-ResidentialCommercial
  • Offices - includes Offices, Broadcast Studios
  • Parking Garages - includes Parking Garages
  • Transportation Terminals – includes Airport, Bus, Train and Ferry Terminals, and Subway Stations 
Community
  • Amusement - includes Movies & Entertainment, Park Buildings, Auditoriums, Clubs, Community Centers, Golf Courses / Country Clubs
  • Library / Museum - includes Libraries, Museums, Art Galleries   
  • Religious - includes Religious Classrooms, Religious Auditoriums, Churches, Mosques, Synagogues, Temples
  • Sports / Convention Center - includes Arenas / Convention Centers
Education
  • Education (Canada) - includes Canada All Education
  • College / University - includes School Laboratories, Dormitories, College, University – Miscellaneous
  • Elementary / Preschool - includes School Auditoriums, Classrooms, Elementary & Preschools Junior / Senior High School - includes Cafeterias, Gyms & Athletic Buildings, Jr / Sr High Schools, High Schools, Junior High Schools, Senior
  • Special / Vocational - includes Special Schools, Vocational Training
Government
  • Courthouse - includes Courthouses
  • Governmental Offices - includes Post Offices, Government – Miscellaneous Buildings, Governmental Offices
  • Police / Fire - includes Fire, Police Stations, Customs Buildings
  • Prisons - includes Prisons, Jails, Juvenile Detention Facilities, Correctional Centres 
Industrial
  • Industrial Labs / Labs / School Labs - includes Laboratories, Industrial Laboratories
  • Manufacturing - includes Manufacturing, Processing Plants
  • Warehouses - includes Warehouses, Office / Warehouses, Rental Warehouses
Medical
  • Hospitals / Clinics - includes Hospitals, Clinics, Kennels
  • Medical miscellaneous - includes Medical Offices, Outpatient Surgery Centers, Imaging Centers
  • Nursing Homes / Assisted Living - includes Nursing Homes, Assisted Living Facilities, Independent Living Facilities, Long-Term Care Facilities, Hospice
Military
  • Military - includes Military Housing, Military Offices, Military – Miscellaneous
Retail
  • Hotels / Motels - includes Hotels, Motels, Hotels, Budget, Hotels, Economy, Hotels, Mid-Price, Hotels, Upscale, Hotels, Luxury
  • Retail Miscellaneous - includes Automotive, Bank Branches, Funeral Homes, Restaurants
  • Shopping - includes Individual Stores, Shopping Centers, Food Stores
ResidentialResidential
  • Multi-Family - includes Townhomes, Condominiums, Apartments
Residential (Census)Residential
  • Single-Family - includes Single-Family Homes

Note: Single-Family starts for the most previous month are an estimate from Oxford Economics. Actuals are updated for the next calendar month.

   

What geographies are covered? 

The data in Forecast covers the following geographies:

United States

  • National
  • State
  • Metropolitan statistical area (MSA) – 363 metropolitan statistical areas
  • County – over 3000 state counties are included

Canada

  • National
  • Provincial                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

How frequently is the data updated? 

Both historical and forecasted starts are updated on a quarterly basis, reflecting the most current macroeconomic and construction starts data. Currently the data is published in the last week of the month following the close of each quarter, in January, April, July, and October. 

How are construction starts different from put-in-place construction spending? 

Two of the most common ways to measure the construction market are construction starts and put-in-place: 

  • Put-in-place is an aggregate value of work done, regardless of when contractors are paid or when work is begun. Put-in-place excludes projects in the planning stage and is limited to reporting the final cost per month, which can in turn omit variables occurring over the lifetime of a project.
  • By contrast, construction starts report the total project value or total square feet of projects at the time they are started. Starts are seen as a leading indicator of construction spending and investment. 

What are the data sources? 

Overall, construction starts data is derived from the ConstructConnect database. Single family starts data is derived from the U. S. Census Bureau and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, and macroeconomic data comes from Oxford Economics.                   

What are the data collection methods? 

ConstructConnect  collects information on public and private construction projects across the United States and Canada.

The primary data collection methods are: 

Reporting

  • ConstructConnect reporters develop and maintain relationships with various sources throughout the construction industry including, but not limited to, owners, developers, architects, and contractors. 

Partnerships and alliances 

  • ConstructConnect maintains strategic partnerships and alliances with key industry organizations to enhance data collection efforts. 

Technology and automation 

  • ConstructConnect uses advanced technology and automation to aggregate information on public construction projects. 

What's the methodology used to forecast construction starts?

For ConstructConnect, a forecast is the calculated start on a project in the future. The forecast value is derived using historical starts from the ConstructConnect database and data modeling provided by Oxford Economics. As a forecast includes historical starts, the costs for labor and materials, overhead, interest and taxes paid during construction and contractor's profits are part of a forecast value. However, design costs, such as architectural and engineering, are not included.

The following table lists the drivers by sector that are used in determining starts.

SectorShort-term driversLong-term drivers
ResidentialUnemployment rate, household liabilities, mortgage interest rates, house prices, population trendsHouse prices, personal incomes
Non-residential buildingOutput trends in relevant sector, population trends, capacity utilization, Borrowing costs, employment in relevant sector, disposable incomeOutput trends and employment in relevant sector
Civil engineeringFederal/State/Provincial spending, government borrowing costs, employment in government sector, output trends in relevant sectorFederal/State/Provincial spending, Output trends in relevant sector


What's the process for converting data into construction starts? 

The following diagram illustrates the process for converting our data and Oxford Economic data into the economic data available in Forecast:

Why are historical starts data updated?

All projects reported by ConstructConnect are followed continuously by our network of reporters, ensuring that the starts data are consistently accurate even when projects are re-bid or abandoned.  

NoteUpdates to Forecast historical starts are frozen at a rolling 12-month calendar based on the current month

What is the single-family methodology? 

The data for single-family construction starts is a combination of unit, square foot and project values and extrapolated using a proprietary formula. While the methodology used is consistent for both the U.S. and Canada, there are some differences in the data sources:  


United States

The U.S. single-family construction starts are derived using data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

  

Canada 

The Canadian single-family construction starts are derived using data from CMHC (unit) and ConstructConnect (square foot and project).