Cement shortages posing threat to US construction boom

Cement shortages posing threat to US construction boom
Published: 20 May 2004

The construction boom in the United States faces a potentially serious new threat from cement shortages, which began a month ago in Florida and are spreading to other states.

Florida’s shortfall has already forced contractors to lay off workers because they can’t get cement to make concrete for jobs. Other fast-growing states also depend to a great extent on imports, and industry officials note shortages in parts of South Carolina, Texas and Louisiana.

Railroad backlogs in the Western U.S. have also contributed to cement shortages in the big Las Vegas market, cement makers report. They add that the unusually mild winter in many parts of the country made for accelerate building activity that ate up much of their supplies.

“We are projecting we will be sold out later in the year, so now we are having to meter the demand,” said Charlie Sunderland, chairman and chief executive officer of Ash Grove Cement Co.

The cement shortages exacerbate a headache for the US building industry from increasingly scarce materials. Steel supplies have been tight, with prices for many products soaring more than 50 per cent since January.

Many economists are beginning to fret over the cumulative impact of the materials’ shortages on the torrid pace of construction activity in the country and the economy as a whole. The home building sector already appears to be slowing slightly as mortgage rates rise.