US & Global Economic Impact Analysis and Forecasts

Freedonia analysts and economists are sharing their insights on how major events are impacting different parts of the US and global economies.

An Unexpected Development in Multifamily Housing: Larger Apartments

Something we have frequently chronicled on this blog is the strong demand for new housing across the US. While this has fueled the construction of single-family housing, the fact remains that the shortage of available – and affordable – housing has in turn led to calls for an increase in the construction of multifamily housing units (e.g., apartments and condominiums). Apartments and condominiums do have some advantages over single-family homes, key among them affordability – rent is often less costly than a mortgage payment in many markets – and the generally larger number of living units that can be included in a multifamily housing complex.

Thus, a recent article describing increasing construction of larger apartments shows that the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting this segment of the housing market as much as it is single-family housing. For many renters, larger apartments are a necessity. With hybrid work arrangements increasing becoming common, tenants need designated spaces for home offices – no matter how cozy they may seem. Furthermore, with many people adjusting their lifestyles in the pandemic – and remaining in their apartments more – even modest increases in living space can be seen as an attractive feature to potential tenants.

However, this trend of larger-sized apartments does have some potential downsides:

  • Increases in the size of an apartment means that fewer units will be constructed, at a time when more residences of every type are needed in the US.
  • Similarly, larger-sized will generally command higher rents, potentially pricing out lower-income tenants and those who suffered financial reverses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The mix of building materials needed to construct these larger apartments will also change – more drywall and interior supports will be needed to create these additional rooms, while more flooring, paint, and interior molding will needed to finish these units.

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, particularly in the Construction and Building Products and Consumer Goods areas. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.

  Construction & Building Products      Consumer Goods      Covid-19    

Just What Does “Unprecedented” Mean Anymore?

Here we are… a year and a half after COVID-19 first came into the global consciousness with unprecedented lockdowns in China, with other countries to follow soon after that.

I know that I have used the word “unprecedented” more than I ever had previously… and I’ve seen it in a million headlines so I know that everyone else is too. In an era where everything sometimes feels unfamiliar and unprecedented… has the word lost all meaning?

A sizeable share of the Freedonia analytical team has 15+ years of experience forecasting and analyzing prospects for a variety of industries. We’ve watched recessions and recoveries, dot com booms and busts, financial crises, multiple housing and capital investment cycles, terrorist attacks, disruptive innovations, shifting consumer attitudes, regional pandemics, changes in trade dynamics, and more. And now we’re working through a global pandemic that has included supply chain crises, inflation, worker shortages, major changes in living and shopping habits, and very rapid acceleration of pre-pandemic trends.

Comparisons to previous economic periods aren’t what they used to be… “unprecedented.” Still, we collect reported tidbits, look for clues, watch patterns, consider impacts, analyze from multiple perspectives, seek out the knowns in the unknown while we look to make the new connections and relationships tell the story of an industry, of our economy, of our times.

When will “unprecedented” become “normal”? Stay tuned…

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.

  Covid-19    

Surging Demand Spurs Construction of New OSB Mill

While there’s been a lot of talk about the nationwide shortage of lumber – which has caused prices to rise and led to delays at numerous construction sites across the US – that is not the only construction material that’s in short supply. Construction professionals across the country face supply issues with a number of other construction materials, too, among them oriented strand board, or OSB. OSB is an engineered wood product used in a wide range of construction applications, key among them:

  • roof, floor and wall trusses
  • siding
  • wall sheathing
  • sub- and finish flooring
  • pack

Demand for OSB has been elevated over the past year due to high levels of new housing construction (where OSB is used extensively) and homeowner interest in home remodeling, which has boosted used of the material as homeowners add bathrooms, expand kitchens, and convent old spaces into home gyms and offices.

Thus, the announcement by Huber Engineered Woods – a leading OSB supplier – that it would be erecting a new OSB plant was welcome news to the construction industry. The new site will take advantage of its proximity to the extensive forest stocks in the Upper Midwest to obtain raw materials for OSB that can be used in construction projects across the region and in the US as a whole. While the facility is not expected to begin operations until 2024, demand for new housing and home improvement projects is anticipated to remain strong going forward.

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, particularly such studies as Flooring Wood Panels and Oriented Strand Board, as well other studies in the Construction and Building Products and Consumer Goods areas. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.


Shortage of Vinyl Resins Affecting Construction & Medical Goods Industries

Amidst all the talk of product shortages and supply chain issues, there’s another factor that plays a key role here: that of the availability of the raw materials needed to make finished goods. No matter how the strong the demand for a particular product, firms are helpless to meet surging demand for goods without key raw materials. Outside of lumber and similar products, lack of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) resins is also causing havoc in a number of industries.

As this article indicates, strong demand for PVC had already affected the supply chain in 2020, and the winter storms that cut across Texas early in 2021 caused more difficulties. Plants that make PVC resins – as well as the refineries that make the feedstocks needed to produce to these resins – were forced to shut down due to a lack of electricity. In the meantime, demand for products made from PVC has continued to climb. For instance:

  • High levels of new home construction have boosted demand for PVC windows and doors, pipe, vinyl siding, and other building and construction products.
  • Strong shipments of medical goods (such as PPE) have promoted demand for vinyl films – often  specified because of their sterile properties.
  • Continuing need for ventilators and other related medical equipment has boosted use of PVC tubing.

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, particularly in the Construction and Building Products as well as packaging-related topics such as Pouches, Converted Flexible Packaging, Medical Device Packaging, and Global Disposable Medical Supplies. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.


Acquisition Shows Effect of High Lumber Prices on Pallet Industry

While there have been a number of articles about the effect of the lumber shortages on the housing market, much less has been said about how the national lumber shortage has affected other industries. For instance, a leading end use for lumber in the US is pallets. Indeed, with more than 90% of pallets in the US made from hardwood and softwood lumber, the shortage of lumber has severely affected the pallet industry. Many sawmills have been prioritizing shipments to home builders and big-box retailers – who have more purchasing power – leading many pallet producers and retailers facing critical shortages of pallet cants and other lumber components needed to fix and repair pallets. Not only can firms produce fewer new pallets, but firms’ ability to repair damaged pallets has also been affected by the lumber shortage – companies unable to obtain replacement cants are faced with the difficult choice of cannibalizing one pallet to repair several others.

A recent acquisition announcement shows how one firm in coping with the shortage of lumber. Kamps – one of the nation’s leading pallet repair and management firms – announced that it would purchase Buckeye Diamond Logistics, a firm that also provides pallet repair and management services. The acquisition:

  • expands Kamps’ national pallet stock – a key consideration when firms are looking to lease as many pallets as possible to ensure timely shipment of their goods
  • boosts the company’s network of pallet repair and maintenance facilities
  • increases Kamps’ inventory of trailers used to haul pallets, making it better able to quickly shift pallets to a customer experiencing a temporary shortage
  • adds to Kamps’ purchasing power – some sawmills will only sell to firms willing to buy large quantities of lumber

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, including Pallets and Global Pallets. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.