ROSSLYN, Va.,—After seeing ebbs and flows in each of the four prior quarters, NEMA’s Lighting Systems Index gained 5.2 percent on a quarter-to-quarter basis during 2012Q1. On a year-over-year basis the index increased by 3.7 percent, indicating that aggregate lighting equipment demand has improved appreciably since the recovery began; however it remains well below the levels observed during the previous economic expansion. Among the five categories of lighting systems products included in the index, only emergency lighting posted a year-over-year decline in shipments while fixtures, ballasts, miniature lamps and large lamps registered solid gains compared to the first quarter of 2011.
The still tepid construction outlook implies lighting equipment output growth will lag in the near term. Housing is finally transitioning from trough to recovery, but forward progress will be slow. However, a return to “normal” levels of building activity is not expected for several more years as still-declining prices, large numbers of underwater homeowners, and a sizeable shadow inventory present persistent pitfalls to prompt progress.
Nonresidential construction declined for a second consecutive quarter in 2012Q1. Commercial construction had a particularly poor showing, sliding sharply while manufacturing construction edged upward. We continue to expect overall nonresidential construction to struggle to gain traction during 2012 and 2013 as supply and demand fundamentals move largely sideways and fiscal austerity continues.
Prospects are somewhat brighter for the electrical equipment intensive commercial construction category, which includes offices and retail space among other types of buildings. A solid recovery is expected by 2013.
Tana Farrington, International Economist