According to recently released USGS data, cement shipments to the state of Alabama for the month of December 2018 contracted by 14.6%, compared to the same period in 2017. This reduction comes on the heels of a 30.6% drop for November 2018 vs November 2017. Cement shipments ended the year shrinking three out of the last four months after experiencing growth for eight consecutive months between January and August. On the surface, the contraction is troubling, but the state did experience tremendous rainfall in November and December which severely limited work days in the construction sector. Recent economic reports suggest home building has slowed down across the country but commercial and industrial construction has remained strong. If this is true, we should see pent up demand from November and December drive up January tonnage. In 2018, Alabama saw tonnage grow by nearly 7% over the previous 12 months.
Utilizing the NRMCA conversion factor for cement tonnage used in the ready mix market, it is estimated that 280,052 cubic yards were placed during the month of December. This is the lowest monthly output in the last 24 months. For the year, it is estimated 4,557,011 yards of concrete were placed in the state.
As we move into 2019 tonnage reports, we hope to see the 4th quarter of 2018 as an out flier and not an omen for weak construction numbers this year. The overall economy remains strong and we are experiencing historical low unemployment. This two factors alone should result in level to modest growth in cement and concrete demand.