Wood products once again lead manufacturing growth
Economic activity in the manufacturing sector grew in
July with the overall economy notching a third
consecutive month of growth say the nation's supply
executives in the latest Manufacturing Report On
The survey indicates expansion in the overall economy for
the third month in a row after a contraction in April, which
ended a period of 131 consecutive months of growth.
Panel sentiment was generally optimistic (two positive
comments for every one cautious comment), continuing a
trend from June. Demand expanded, with the New Orders
Index growing at a strong level.
The growth cycle continues for the second straight month
after three prior months of COVID-19 disruptions.
Demand and consumption continued to drive expansion
growth, with inputs remaining at parity with supply and
For the second consecutive month, wood manufacturers
reported the highest growth. Of the 18 manufacturing
industries, 13 reported growth in July with Wood
Products, Furniture & Related Products, and Textile Mills
leading the way.
Sweeping antidumping and countervailing duty
The Department of Commerce published a proposed
rule that would make sweeping changes to the
administration and enforcement of the antidumping (AD)
and countervailing duty (CVD) laws.
Specifically, the Department proposes:
to modify its regulation concerning the time for
submission of comments pertaining to industry
support in AD and CVD proceedings;
to modify its regulation regarding new shipper
reviews; to modify its regulation concerning
scope matters in AD and CVD proceedings;
to promulgate a new regulation concerning
circumvention of AD and CVD orders;
to promulgate a new regulation concerning
covered merchandise referrals received from US
Customs and Border Protection (CBP);
to promulgate a new regulation pertaining to
Commerce requests for certifications from
interested parties to establish whether
merchandise is subject to an AD or CVD order;
to modify its regulation regarding importer
reimbursement certifications filed with CBP; and
to modify its regulations regarding letters of
appearance in AD and CVD proceedings and
importer filing requirements for access to
business proprietary information.
Stakeholders have until 14 September to submit comments
on the proposal. After considering comments, Commerce
would have to publish a Final Rule before these changes
would go into effect.
Implementation of new Lacey Act declaration
In March, the Department of Agriculture¡¯s (USDA)
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)
published a notice in the Federal Register of the United
States announcing plans to implement phase six of the
Lacey Act enforcement schedule, effective October 1,
This would have required importers to file a Lacey Act
declaration for new goods including Oriented Strand
Board, several musical instruments, and certain wooden
boxes, crates, and pallets. In response to stakeholder
concerns about operational and economic setbacks caused
by the COVID-19 pandemic, APHIS has delayed
implementation of this requirement.
Housing starts surge in July in rare pandemic bright
Homebuilding accelerated at the fastest rate in nearly four
years in July. The housing sector has emerged as one of
the few areas of strength in an economy suffering a record
slowdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Housing starts increased 22.6% - the biggest gain since
October 2016 - to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of
1.496 million units last month, according to the US
Commerce Department. Data for June was revised up to a
1.22 million-unit pace from the previously reported 1.186
July¡¯s construction pace was the fastest since February,
when a record-long US economic expansion abruptly
ended as the coronavirus began spreading rapidly around
the country, triggering business shutdowns and widespread
stay-at-home orders. With last month¡¯s increase, new
home building is just 4.5% below February¡¯s pace of
1.567 million units.
The largest increases in homebuilding were in the
Northeast, up 35% from June, and the South, up 33% from
the prior month. Construction starts were up by around 6%
in the Midwest and West.
Building permits issuance, considered a more forwardlooking
gauge of residential construction activity, also
accelerated in July. Permits issuance totaled 1.495 million
units at an annualized rate, up 18.8% from June.
The National Association of Home Builders reported
confidence among housing construction firms surged in
early August to its highest reading in the 35-year history
of the series, matching the record that was set in December
Second quarter custom home building outperformed
Custom home building performed better than the overall
building market during the challenging second quarter of
2020, according to an analysis of Census Data by the
National Association of Home Builders. This relative
outperformance is at odds with the conventional narrative
that spec home building saw outsized gains during the
April to June time period.
There were 45,000 total custom building starts during the
second quarter of 2020. While this marks a 6% decline
relative to the second quarter 2019 total of 48,000, this
decline was smaller than the overall decline for singlefamily
housing starts of almost 11%. Over the last four
quarters, custom housing starts totaled 177,000, which was
a 5% increase over the prior four quarter total of 168,000
Softwood lumber costs up nearly 30% over three
Prices paid for goods used in residential construction
continued their upward trend in July, increasing 1.8%
according to the latest Producer Price Index (PPI) report
released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It is the third
consecutive monthly increase since the index declined
three months straight by a total 5.4%. Prices rose in the
Northeast, Midwest, and South regions by 2.7%, 2.7%,
and 1.1%, respectively, while prices paid in the West fell
The index has decreased 1.3% year-to-date (YTD), a
larger decline than the prior record for a July YTD
decrease (-0.9% in 2000). Prices paid for goods used in
residential construction have only fallen five times
between January and June since 2000.
Unemployment claims again top 1 million
The number of Americans applying for the first time for
unemployment insurance rose in the second week of
August to 1.1 million from 970,000 the week before, a
sign that job losses continue to plague the labour market
five months into the pandemic.
The weekly jobless claims had sunk slowly in recent
months, but have remained well above historic highs,
averaging about 1.18 million a week for the last four
weeks. Initial claims, as well new claims for Pandemic
Unemployment Assistance, the programme available to
help self-employed workers, both went up.
More than 28 million people are receiving some form of
unemployment benefits as of August 1, the most recent
week for that statistic, about equal to the previous week.