February 1, 2013
In the January issue of Aggregates Manager, I shared the results of our annual forecast survey. These results indicate improving conditions for many aggregate producers throughout the United States. For more on the survey, read the article here.
On Jan. 29, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) confirmed what aggregates producers told us: 2012 did indeed mark an improvement in U.S. aggregates production. In the Mineral Commodity Summaries 2013, the USGS reports that 2012 crushed stone production was about 1.24 billion metric tons, a 7-percent increase from 2011. At 1.28 billion tons, annual consumption outpaced production. The USGS notes that “demand for crushed stone was slightly higher in 2012 because of the apparent end of the slowdown in activity that some of the principal construction markets have experienced during the last six years.”
Estimated sand and gravel production was 842 million metric tons, a nearly 5-percent increase over 2011 levels. While the percentage of increase wasn’t quite as high, sand and gravel producers also achieved an average $0.15 per ton price increase for the year, with the average value per ton hitting $7.65. Employment in this area also grew from 29,800 workers in 2011 to 31,500 in 2012. Sand and gravel production levels are estimated to be at the highest level since 2008.
While some operators may continue to feel the economic pinch, evidence is growing that market conditions — taken as a whole — are indeed improving. Rod Stewart sings, “Every picture tells a story, don’t it?” To me, it’s encouraging to see an optimistic picture developing.