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Australian PCI®: Infrastructure keeps construction growing in August

The pace of growth across the construction industry was relatively unchanged in August, despite a continued decline in apartment building activity, with the Australian Industry Group/Housing Industry Association Australian Performance of Construction Index (Australian PCI®) falling by 0.2 points to 51.8 – a 19th consecutive month of expansion (readings above 50 indicate expansion in activity, with the distance from 50 indicating the strength of the increase).

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Ai Group Head of Policy, Peter Burn, said: "The construction sector grew at a modest pace in August on the back of continued strength of engineering construction and despite a further significant drop in apartment building. With the other two sub-sectors – commercial construction and house building – down fractionally, employment growth stalled last month in contrast to the general expansion of jobs over the past year or so. Looking ahead, lower levels of new orders in the residential sub-sectors point to further slowing whereas for commercial construction and engineering construction the pipelines of new work grew more rapidly in August, pointing to further gains in the period ahead," Dr Burn said.

HIA Economist, Diwa Hopkins, said:"House and apartment building activity has been cooling since 2016 when new records for building were set. A key driver of this cooling in activity has been a significant withdrawal of investors from the market. Foreign investors in particular now face additional federal and state-based taxes when purchasing new housing in all but one of Australia’s eight states and territories. Domestic investors are now subject to tighter credit conditions which are weighing on their demand for new housing. These issues regarding access to finance are unlikely to ease in the near term – only yesterday did other major lenders hike their mortgage rates, with more independent moves likely to follow. Add to these factors a situation of falling house prices in the key Sydney and Melbourne markets, and the list of deterrents to investor activity is quite varied. We expect credit conditions to continue to weigh on new home building activity into 2019," Ms Hopkins said.

Australian PCI®– Key Findings for August:

  • Australian PCI®data for August pointed to a solid lift in the new orders sub-index (up 6.5 points to 56.8) on the back of stronger demand conditions across the major building and infrastructure project areas of construction, but activity (down 1.2 points to 49.5) and employment (down 1.7 points to 49.1) both fell into mild negative territory.
  • Across the four sub-sectors, engineering construction drove industry growth in August (up 0.6 points to 55.0), consistent with reports of new tender wins and ongoing support from a strong and expanding pipeline of publicly funded major projects. Commercial construction remained subdued, largely unchanged from the previous month (up 0.1 point to 49.2).
  • In the residential construction sub-sectors, house building softness was again evident in August, slipping slightly into negative territory (down 0.5 points to 49.8), while apartment building contracted for a sixth consecutive month and more sharply (down 3.9 points to 32.8). The apartment sub-sector has now declined in 12 of the past 13 months following a cooling in new orders over the second half of 2017 and through 2018.
  • The input prices sub-index remained elevated in August, but eased by 6.8 points to 75.4, while wages also eased from July’s decade-high result (down 4.5 points to 62.7), with demand for workers continuing to increase.
  • Despite continued cost increases, the selling prices sub-index fell into contraction, decreasing a further 4.6 points to 46.8 amid strong competition in securing work

View all Economic Indicators

Seasonally adjusted

Index this month

Change from last month

12 month average

 

Index this month

Change from last month

12 month average

Australian PCI®

51.8

-0.2

54.1

New Orders

56.8

6.5

53.7

Activity

49.5

-1.2

53.8

Employment

49.1

-1.7

54.1

Houses

49.8

-0.5

54.2

Deliveries

58.0

-9.4

55.6

Apartments

32.8

-3.9

46.0

Input Prices

75.4

-6.8

77.4

Commercial

49.2

0.1

55.2

Selling Prices

46.8

-4.6

55.9

Engineering

55.0

0.6

56.2

Wages

62.7

-4.5

63.7

 

 

 

 

Capacity Utilisation (%)

77.2

-0.6

78.1

Background: The Ai Group/HIA Australian PCI® is a seasonally adjusted national composite index based on the diffusion indexes for activity, orders/new business, deliveries and employment with varying weights. An Australian PCI® reading above 50 points indicates that construction activity is generally expanding; below 50, that it is declining. The distance from 50 is indicative of the strength of the expansion or decline.

Media Enquiries:
Tony Melville (Ai Group) – 0419 190 347
Diwa Hopkins (HIA Economist) – 02 6245 1366