Dip in February Glazing Activity May Signal Start of COVID-19’s Impact

The value of nonresidential contract glazier activity in the U.S. declined in February compared to January, according to Key Media & Research (KMR).

Nonresidential construction declined 1.8% for the month but was still up 2.5% year-over-year on a seasonally adjusted annualized basis, the U.S. Census Bureau reports. When adjusted with KMR’s industry-focused models, the value of nonresidential glass- and glazing-related activity dipped a full 2% month-over-month and edged up 0.9% from a year ago.

Given the severe economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, monthly declines are anticipated in future reports as March and April data are released, though the extent is to be determined.

Commercial Glazing Activity

Contract glaziers saw a 2.3% decline in the value of commercial work from January to February, while spending in this category was 2.2% higher than the same month a year ago.

The office segment dropped 0.7% year-over-year but increased 2.6% on a monthly basis, while lodging saw a yearly decline of 10% and a month-over-month dip of 3.6%. The other major glass-relevant “commercial” subsector, which includes retail, increased 6.5% yearly but declined 3.4% monthly.

Institutional Glazing Activity

Institutional building was down 1.6% from January to February and down 0.6% from the same time last year.

The largest subsector in this category, educational building, declined 1.5% for both the year and the month. Healthcare, the second most relevant institutional segment to the glass and glazing industry, saw a yearly decrease of 3% and a monthly dip of 2.6%.

Industry Employment

Employment in the industry declined for the month but was still higher than a year ago. Nonresidential specialty trade contractors, which include glaziers and ironworkers, saw a 3% increase in employment in March 2020 from March 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

However, the Associated General Contractors of America reported on April 3 that 27% of construction firms responding to a survey that week indicated that they have furloughed or terminated construction workers, so next month’s jobs report should give a better indication of where the industry stands.

Nick St. Denis is the director of research for Key Media & Research, parent company of USGlass magazine.

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