Weekly changes in the prices of diesel and lumber give a quick snapshot into the state of staffing in the construction and distribution industries.
Diesel Price Tracker
National Average Price Per Gallon: $2.786
Diesel prices rose again this week as Hurricane Irma created greater demand for petroleum in the Florida market.
There are no refineries in Florida or pipelines connecting the state to the rest of the Gulf Coast. So unlike with Hurricane Harvey in Texas, the closures of ports and shipping terminals in Florida ahead of Irma didn’t disrupt any petroleum supplies to the rest of the country.
But the demand created by consumers gassing up cars and generators, and by logistics companies making supply adjustments to compensate for disruptions to terminals and ports, did cause Florida’s prices to spike.
According to the Department of Labor, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma did impact this week’s initial unemployment claims. Jobless claims fell by 14,000 this week.
Freight distribution and logistics are also starting to recover from Hurricane Harvey. Houston’s van freight volume has rebounded to 88% of pre-storm levels. Outbound volume recovered in Dallas as well, so traffic is currently moving throughout most of Texas.
Lumber Price Tracker
Random lengths – framing lumber: $421
Random lengths – panels/plywood: $504
Once again, hurricane season has caused lumber prices to rise. This time the culprit is Hurricane Irma. Buyers are continuing to struggle to find available product in the southern market.
It’s still too soon to tell exactly how big of an impact Hurricanes Harvey and Irma will have on construction hiring in the southern United States. But we can look at the impact of previous storms for clues.
After Hurricane Katrina (2005), Louisiana gained 7,800 construction jobs the following year.
In New Jersey, Hurricane Sandy (2012) led to an increase of 9,800 construction jobs in the next 12 months. In New York, the increase in the number of jobs was 16,700.
According to Fletcher Wimbush, CEO of California-based talent firms The Hire Talent and Wimbush & Associates, “No doubt that these disasters will have an effect on the economy, but it will be a very temporary condition.” He also observed that, “These employers may have to employ who they can to get the job done, and in the end help these unskilled workers get a much-needed opportunity.”
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