First Quarter Economic Indicator – A look forward

First Quarter Economic Indicator Now wrapping up Q1 and moving into Q2, at Miles-McClellan Construction, we continue to see a confusing assortment of trends. Below is a quick summary of what we have been seeing over the last 30 days and what we expect more of in Q2:

  • The broad trend speaks to the continued rising interest rates but now with an added twist of uncertainty around the banking industry’s stability. As a result of recent bank collapses and the discussions around bank capitalization and the quality of the assets on the balance sheets, lending has started to tighten. At Miles-McClellan Construction, we are experiencing many projects that are either delayed or canceled due to financing issues.
  • The private construction market continues to slow down because of rising construction costs and interest rates. As a result, we continue to bid on the plethora of public projects available this spring. Two notable trends in this bidding arena are: 1) we are starting to see a longer list of GC bidders on each project, and 2) we are also starting to see more subcontract numbers come in under each trade category of each bid. This trend will eventually lead to lower pricing, as increased competition always does.

A couple of specific examples to share are:

Craig Richards, Vice President, “In the past few years, concrete pricing held pretty steadily while other materials were escalating. However, in the last year, concrete pricing has been on the rise. For example, we paid $135.50/CY on a mid-sized project in August of 2022. We are starting a similar project this May 2023, and concrete is now $155.50/CY – a 15% increase.”

Matt Recchiuti, Vice President, “I was recently talking to a client, and she had just found out that the 1,000,000 SF warehouse project she was going to manage was being canceled. The cancellation was because the lessee agreed to lose their deposit while backing out of the lease.” 

Brad Bloomberg, Vice President, “My team used to bid 1-2 public jobs a month, and now we are averaging 5-7 per month. That is a swing of 75% private bidding to 75% public bidding over the last quarter.”

Kevin Joseph, Project Executive, “We recently contacted a shower door supplier to revisit pricing we originally received in September 2022. As a result of our inquiry, the manufacturer lowered their shipping costs by 50%, giving the owner significant project savings.”

Between now and our next publication, we will closely monitor interest rate projections and construction costs as the competition increases. We will need this up-to-date information as we work to provide our clients with competitive and realistic project budgets.

Fourth Quarter Economic Indicator – Looking Ahead

2022 Q4 economic indicators
Going into the first quarter of any year, we expect the bid market to pick up with the expectation of spring projects that have been in design throughout the winter. What we are seeing is a mixed bag of trends, and we hope sharing these trends with you will help you plan your pending projects.

Below is a quick summary of what we have been seeing over the last 60 days:

  • The broad trend speaks to the rising interest rates and rising construction costs. The private market has slowed down. Our private clients request budgets, but only some projects are heading into construction. We have currently been bidding and working on more public projects. We don’t expect this to continue because the slowdown in demand will drive construction pricing lower, which will eventually offset the rising interest rates in proformas.
  • There has been an increased sense of urgency to get formal approval for change orders on our existing projects and across all types of projects we work on. Subcontractors are hesitant to hold their pricing for over a few weeks, so we are forced to push owners and construction managers to get signed approval to lock in pricing. We support our subcontractor team in this effort, but in return and to help protect our clients, we ask for secured manpower so that our clients receive the service on time.
  • Owner’s preconstruction budgets continue to underestimate the cost of future construction. This creates rebid situations for public and private projects, resulting in project delays and frustrated owners before the project starts. We recommend multiple looks at the budgets you are creating today: one by your architect and one by your contractor. Then lock the project leaders in a room until they agree on the budget.

As a recent example, we bid on a health clinic in early August 2022. It was a competitive bid and Miles-McClellan was not the lower bidder. Our bid was 94% over the owner’s budget, coming in at $1.4M. The owner and architect rebid the project after taking the time to redesign and go through value engineering. The revised budget was raised 55% over the original budget, and our revised bid in October 2023 was submitted just above the revised budget. We were awarded the project 14 months after the initial bid.

While at times it may feel like we are spinning our wheels with all the budgets and rebidding, we would rather provide realistic, inclusive budgets and bids then submit low numbers with the hope of winning and not failing.

Miles-McClellan Construction Builds Vital Retail and Dining Experiences for Charlotte, North Carolina Communities


No industry was affected more by the global pandemic than the restaurant and retail industries, but both industries are on the rebound. In fact, earlier this year these industries were predicted to grow between 6 and 8 percent by the end of this year. And with the remarkable population growth, the retail establishments and restaurants are thriving in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Miles-McClellan is proud to be a part of that growth with our retail and restaurant partners who are an integral part of Charlotte’s growth.

Here are some of Miles-McClellan’s commercial construction projects that help make North Carolina a great place to live, work and play.

Festive Food & Music

Loretta’s is a high-volume restaurant with private function space serving French, Creole, and southern cuisine, featuring live jazz, neo soul and gospel music.

Miles-McClellan managed the demolition of the original building to construct a 7,500-SF back-to-shell space as well as finishing the beautiful, fun space with upscale VIP areas, liquor lockers and a custom bar.

Head to Beatties Ford Road

As part of a community revitalization of an area rich in history but in need of change, Miles-McClellan was hired to help redevelop a neighborhood block to include shopping, banking, dining and more. Miles-McClellan managed the renovation of the existing retail space at 2020 Beatties Ford Road in Charlotte including renovation to the shell of the building and finishing out one of the tenant spaces for a juice bar. In addition, Miles-McClellan served as the general contractor for the renovation of an existing building for the new 1,600-SF BW Sweets and for the renovation of existing space for Mackins Bridal Boutique, both across the street from the 2020 Beatties Ford Road project.

Tacos, Anyone?

When Ohio-based Condado Tacos made its North Carolina debut in Charlotte, Miles-McClellan was there to complete a 4,600-SF interior build out for the restaurant in an existing multi-story building. The work included interior finishes, non-bearing demising walls, ceilings, lighting, food service equipment and exterior changes, including new patio railing and the addition of a new overhead door within the existing storefront opening.

Discover Charlotte’s New Man Cave and Add Some Joy to Your Home

Miles-McClellan is excited to be a part of bringing a luxury furniture design showroom and a new home décor stall retailer to Charlotte. The Miles-McClellan team managed a 7,600-SF retail interior build out for Amodernary Furniture Design at SouthPark and an 88,000-SF renovation for Southern Lion in the Carolina Place Mall, which will feature vender stalls offering furniture, home décor, accessories, art and clothing, a café, meeting spaces and a “man cave” complete with TVs and lounge chairs.

Retail and restaurants have always played vital roles in the business, social, economic and artistic soul of a thriving society. Miles-McClellan takes great pride in building success by building thriving communities. Contact us today to bring great dining and shopping experiences to your community. We build success by Building Excellence!

Q3 2022 Economic Indicators

Q3 2022 Economic Indicators Both our Q1 and Q2 2022 Economic Indicator reports emphasized the effect inflation is having on our industry. It continues to be my goal to share both published trends and commentary as well as local Miles-McClellan experiences.

ENR’s Economics Report on future material and labor price trends, “2022 Third Quarterly Cost Report” was just released and I’m including some information from that report here.

To kick off the report, Richard Branch, chief economist at Dodge Construction Network, is quoted as saying, “The construction sector has turned into a tale of two worlds. First, the nonresidential sector has been a solid performer as manufacturing, public works and data center construction have flourished. Conversely, single-family construction continued to trend sharply lower as rising mortgage rates have led to worsening affordability. The question, though, is how the entire construction sector will react to still higher interest rates over the coming quarters as the Federal Reserve continues its inflation battle with aggressive rate hikes.”

The report goes on to focus on both materials and labor.  It details 15 different construction inputs and notes that prices vary, year-to-date, from -6.0% (copper), to +22.6% (asphalt paving). Of the 15 areas tracked, 12 were higher since January 2022 and all 12 categories were up by double digits through August 2022. The article does go on to explain why ENR anticipates soft lumber and steel to start moving downward in 2023, but acknowledges the trends really depend on how increasing interest rates affect demand.

Labor rates also continue to rise, however, now at a much faster pace. Both union and non-union wages had been averaging between 2-3% annual increases, however, the numbers jumped to 4-5% average increases in 2022. According to Ken Simonson, chief economist of the Associated General Contractors of America, “I believe we’re in a prolonged period of 5% wage increases or even more for craftworkers.”

At M-M, we will continue to work very hard for our clients to control unwanted price increases and schedule delays. Our strategy has been to maintain strong relationships with constant communications with our subcontractors and suppliers so that we have the most up-to-date information to share on each of our projects.

Q2 2022 Economic Indicators

In continuing our theme from our 1st Quarter 2022 EI Report, inflation is every owner’s primary concern. As we continue to study trends, we came across an excellent report published by CBRE titled, 2022 US Construction Cost Trends. The newsletter offered several interesting observations and predictions:

  • The CBRE new Construction Cost Index predicts a 14.1% year-over-year increase in construction costs by year-end 2022 as labor and material continue to rise in cost.
  • Inflation in materials is expected to start to cool toward the end of 2022 and normalize between 2-4% during 2023-24. However, specific supply chain issues and other geo-political risks will continue to cause spikes in some products.
  • Labor will continue to be a challenge as we have four significant trends colliding: a dramatically smaller talent pool resulting from the great recession, an aging industry workforce with 20% of our workers being 55+, the lowest national labor force participation rate ever experienced in the US, and a rise in competition for people from other growing industries such as logistics.

This information shared by CBRE fits precisely with what Miles-McClellan is experiencing as we continue bid projects. Below are three specific examples supporting the above analysis, where we bid either an entire project or a particular product 2 separate times in a short timeframe:

  • During the first quarter of 2022, we had the opportunity to bid on a school HVAC renovation project twice. The owner experienced a 9% increase in total project cost over that short 90-day period.
  • Between the fourth quarter of 2021 and the second quarter of 2022, we bid on an office building renovation/addition project two times, experiencing a 6% increase in total construction costs over 7 months.
  • Lastly, we bid on an operable wall package twice during a 5-month window between December 2021 and April 2022. This owner experienced a 90% spike in price without any change to the scope or material of work.

Our goal is to inform you, our clients, of current construction trends. We will continue to monitor information being predicted industrywide and share specific cost data that Miles-McClellan experiences as we navigate our changing economy.


Q1 2022 Economic Indicators

Q1 2022 Economic Indicators In our last issue of the Economic Indicator Report, I cited several issues that will dramatically impact the economy in 2022. Specifically, 4 issues were noted by Anirban Basu, Chief Economist for the Associated Builders and Contractors Association:

  1. less growth in federal spending,
  2. ongoing global supply chain disruptions,
  3. rampant worker shortages, and
  4. an increasing cost of capital.

Implied but missing from the list above is inflation. Because our clients will face inflation challenges, we plan to present specific job cost data throughout 2022 and 2023. Every chance we get to reprice a project, we will share our findings.

This quarter’s case study today is a hotel – the same hotel brand; basically, the same building – built between March 2019 and March 2020 and then repriced in May 2022 (2 years apart). The costs exclude all site work costs to keep the percentage increases as close to apples-to-apples as possible. Over those two years, we experienced and shared with our repeat client a 38% increase in total project cost

Here are few key components of that increase:

I started by looking at structural elements:

  • Concrete +95%
  • Masonry +74%
  • Structural steel +49%
  • Carpentry and Framing +117%

Then I immediately jumped to the MEP trades:

  • Fire Protection +140%
  • Plumbing +19%
  • Electrical +4% (we eliminated the structured cabling)
  • Mechanical +75%

We have achieved an overall increase of 38% by finding other ways to reduce scope and find additional efficiencies. It is important to note that this is the same hotel brand; however, design changes were made with the final budget in mind. I am afraid that a true building to building comparison would have resulted in some factor much greater than 38%.

In preparation for our next EI issue, we will rebid a set of drawings for a project that we bid and built 1 year ago. I look forward to learning and sharing these results.

Q4 2021 Economic Indicators

Q3 2021 Economic Indicators The following is an excellent summary of what 2022 will bring to our industry, as written by Anirban Basu, Chief Economist for Associated Builders and Contractors, in December 2021.

“After the dramatic pace of economic recovery that characterized 2020’s final eight months and the early months of 2021, economic growth is set to soften in 2022. While recession appears unlikely in the near-term, there are many factors suggesting that the year to come will not produce a further boom in activity.

“Among these factors are:

  1. Less growth in federal spending;
  2. Ongoing global supply chain disruptions; and
  3. Rampant worker shortages.

“While there may be some alleviation of the challenges produced by the latter two factors, the economy will continue to face substantial headwinds.

“With so much going on, it is simple to forget what really matters. More than anything else, economic activity is driven by flows of capital. That capital could become more expansive in 2022 as monetary policy shifts, producing likely increases in interest rates in the process. With so many economic actors so fully leveraged, even small increases in interest rates can produce substantial drag on the economy. A sudden surge in borrowing costs could be enough to throw the 2022 economy into reverse, though such a surge appears unlikely. Still, contractors and other construction industry stakeholders should be eyeing interest rates closely over the year(s) to come.”

Miles-McClellan is experiencing all three factors listed above. However, our backlog remains very strong. There continue to be more opportunities available than we can pursue because of our internal bottleneck of lacking team availability.

While it is challenging, we will continue to focus on our client’s needs and work hard to NOT over-promise and under-deliver!

Basu, A. (2021, December 1). 2022 Construction Economic Forecast – The Recovery Could Have Been So Much Better. Retrieved from :

Q3 2021 Economic Indicators

Q3 2021 Economic Indicators It’s always interesting to watch the trends of construction’s big four leading economic indicators while comparing those results to our conversations with our designer and contractor peers. Overwhelmingly, the discussions focus on inflation – both in material and labor inputs. Yet, the amount of work in the system continues to expand.

  • The AIA Billing Index rose nominally from 55.6 to 56.6, indicating that architects billed more in September than in August 2021. More importantly, backlogs of architects across the country reached a new all-time high since the AIA started collecting the data quarterly in late 2010, now averaging 6.6 months.
  • One additional note worth mentioning from the AIA September survey is that the Project Inquiries Index jumped above 60 to 62.0, which tells us there are plenty of opportunities in the market to pursue.
  • 17 new projects, each $100 million and greater, entered the Dodge tracking system.
  • The Dodge Momentum Index jumped from 148.0 in August to 164.9 in September 2021. This is the single strongest predictor of our market over the upcoming 12 months.
  • While the ABC Backlog Indicator fell nominally from 7.7 to 7.6 months, Miles-McClellan’s backlog, as well as those backlogs of our contemporaries here in Ohio and North Carolina, all remain strong.

All the signs outlined suggest that owners and developers are looking past the current pricing concerns, the continued spread of COVID-19 variants, and the political climate are moving forward with projects to meet demand.

2021 Q2 Economic Indicators

2021 Q2 Economic Indicators As 2021 second-quarter numbers get reported, all the news feeds are full of inflation talk – is it a transitory or dangerous trend? As we release our Q2 Economic Indicator Report, the Producer Price Index (PPI) numbers were also released, and they are “hotter” than expected. For reference, the PPI index measures price changes from the purchaser’s perspective.

About PPI:

  • The PPI is different from the CPI (Consumer Price Index) in that it measures costs from the viewpoint of industries that make the products, whereas the CPI measures prices from the perspective of consumers.
  • The BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) separates PPI data into three main areas of classification: industry, commodity, and commodity-based final and intermediate demand (FD-ID).
  • The PPI is considered an objective tool for adjusting prices in long-term purchasing agreements.

(Majaski, 2021)

The Producer Price Index for final demand rose 1% in July as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. On an adjusted basis, the final demand index moved up 7.8% for the 12 months ended July 2021. This is the largest advance since 12-month data were first calculated in November 2010.

Nearly three-fourths of the July increase in the final demand index can be traced to a 1.1% advance in prices for final demand services. The index for final demand goods rose .6%.

This makes sense – as I poll our project teams, the single consistent theme is the cost and lack of labor.

Interpreting the Trends

  • The Architect’s Billing Index remained elevated at a score of 57.1. The regional ABI reported for the Midwest was at 62, an incredibly high number. As a reminder, any score above 50 indicates an increase in architect’s billings and is highly correlated with the number of market opportunities we see in the 8-12 month range. These reports continue to signify a hot construction market in 2022.
  • The Dodge Momentum Index indicator, as reported last quarter, had a record-breaking jump from 139.1 in January to 148.8 in March (the most significant single jump in the index’s history), increasing again to 151.4 in April. This trend continued with the index moving to 163.2 in April, 175.1 in May, and 165.8 in June. This continues to signal an ever-increasing number of total projects entering the planning process and an increasing number of large projects in the pipeline. This index tells me that we will have plenty of opportunities available during spring-summer bidding 2022.
  • The last indicator that I want to emphasize is the ABC Backlog Indicator, which has now moved above 8 months. This is not surprising given its lagging nature, and you should expect to see this measurement continue to follow the rise in both the AIA Billing Index and the Dodge Momentum Index as we move through fall 2021.

In summary, we are experiencing “hotter” price increases (inflation) than initially anticipated as the economy first started to recover. Labor costs are notably higher, and the market for skilled trades continues to be THE hurdle for the construction industry. While the temporary shortage of some building materials can be managed, the continued tightening of the labor market will continue to affect the schedule. The construction market is continuing to experience increases in construction costs across all types of construction. The lead indicators point toward more of the same as we move through the back half of 2021 and into 2022.

Advanced planning is the single best way to control your budget – so if you have a project in your future – work closely with your architect and construction partners now and start the planning process a little earlier than you typically would to save money.

Majaski, C. (2021, July 26). Producer Price Index (PPI). Retrieved from

Q1 2021 Economic Indicators

As 2021 Q1 numbers get reported, it has been commonly agreed that the post-pandemic surge is underway. The first-quarter real GDP growth is +6.4%, following the surprising Q4 2020 report of +4.3%.  While many economists believe this will be primarily consumer-driven given a combination of pent-up demand and recently distributed stimulus checks, the lead indicators we follow all also suggest a surging construction industry.

Interpreting the Trends

  • The Architect’s Billing Index strengthened to a score not seen since pre-great recession and continues the trend of rising billings and reported scores greater than 50. According to AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, “The activity that architecture firms are seeing is a positive bellwether not only for the construction outlook but also for the larger economy.” The ABI tends to be tied to the amount of market opportunities we see in the 8-12 month range, signifying industry growth in 2022.
  • The Dodge Momentum Index indicator followed its record-breaking jump from 139.1 in January to 148.8 in March (the most significant single jump in the history of the index), increasing again to 151.4. This continues to signal an increasing number of total projects entering the planning process and an increasing number of large projects in the pipeline. This index is very heavily correlated to the opportunities available in the industry during spring bidding 2022.
  • The last indicator to look at is the ABC Backlog Indicator, which is below 8 months. This is not surprising given its lagging nature, and you should expect to see this follow the rise in both the AIA Billing Index and the Dodge Momentum Index as we move through summer and fall 2021.

In summary, we are experiencing a quicker rebound in the construction industry than expected as of our Q4 2020 review. This has led to a tightening labor market and shortage of building products (for too many reasons to cover quickly). Our clients are now experiencing increases in construction costs across all types of construction. The lead indicators point toward more of the same as we move through 2021 and into 2022. Advanced planning will always help your budget – so if you have a project in your future – start the planning process a little earlier than you typically would to save money.