Crane Use, a Bell Weather of Commercial and Public Construction, Dips in the US and Canada

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Robison Wells
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Construction economists use crane usage to gauge the state of the industry in specific locations. The Rider Levett Bucknall Crane Count, developed to measure that very thing, indicates that the stats from Q1 to Q3 of 2021 don't look great for commercial and public construction projects.

According to the Crane Count, the number of fixed cranes across cities in the US and Canada decreased by 4.5%. The Crane Count measures fourteen cities; only three of them saw an increase in the number of fixed cranes: Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Toronto.

Of the cities that saw a downturn in crane usage, the report deemed five cities to have a "significant decrease"; Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Portland all dropped by more than 30%.

"We anticipate better times ahead with previously delayed projects being brought back online," the report said. "However, this is conditional upon market conditions as the AEC industry continues to experience the effects of COVID-19."

The best news came out of Toronto, where construction companies used 47 cranes for mixed-purpose and 133 for residential, growing 81%. The American city that increased the most, Los Angeles at 19%, used 25 cranes for mixed-purpose and 12 residential.

The report said that an increase in transportation projects bolsters Los Angeles's construction growth. Still, a dip in the hospitality sector drives a slowdown in commercial development for this tourism town.

The RLB report comes out every first and third quarter and is watched closely by economists and Wall Street alike to forecast the future. According to this year's report, decreases in construction persist.

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