In the same way that many parts of the effects of COVID-19 have hit us without a recognizable pattern, there also is no clean break, no solid uniform retreat as some symptoms recede but others linger. Certain parts of the country are having pretty serious flare ups of a stronger, more contagious variant of COVID. Other countries around the world have been hit hard recently, after escaping the first year of COVID virtually unscathed. Malaysia has been virtually shut down over the past month from the disease after having no issues with COVID earlier. Canada still has serious COVID problems. If you have been wondering why cedar shingles (both red and white) are so hard to come by, COVID still is a major factor in limiting supply. Imagine a saw mill with one case of COVID. The entire mill has to get shut down and sanitized, which halts production, then workers are scared to come back to work and then worker’s families may not want them to come back to work. Production levels are still far below where they need to be. We are all on allocation. Then add in shortage of truckers to move the product, challenges of getting across the border because of health concerns, and you can see why the whole category of cedar shingles still has its challenges.
Framing lumber pricing however, has continued to head in the right direction, downward. Supplies are more plentiful and prices are coming off, as proof that free markets are usually part physical and often more psychological. We will be reminding the mills for a long time to come that we won’t soon forget the way they whipped the supply chain to their advantage and took dangerous risks with the economy by pushing lumber prices so high. Plywoods still linger in high priced territory as the resin supplies have not caught up from high demand and from the still lingering effects of storm induced outages in the gulf coast manufacturing facilities where most resin production takes place in this country. Roofing manufacturers are still on allocation despite their significant reduction in color choices and product line offerings. They are complaining about lack of fiberglass mat availability. If complaints and excuses could pay the bills, they’d be worth something, but neither work!
We are hearing very extended lead times on a wide array of items including kitchen cabinets, many door and window lines, trusses fasteners, and hardware. Shortages of key components have sidelined many new vehicles including the ever popular Ford F150 pickups. We have had a new service van on order for 6 months, it has supposedly been made but we are told is sitting in a storage lot, awaiting a micro-processor and we are not able to get any word as to delivery.
This last year has been a long haul for everyone. Despite the remarkable patience shown by so many, there are a growing number who want all of COVID behind us. I heard a builder’s customer say recently that they were sick of hearing COVID excuses and they just weren’t going to accept them. The reality is that COVID is not yet over, and although we have all heard plenty of excuses along the way, the fact that people are still contracting COVID and dying from COVID is very real. Supply chains still have quite a way to go to get back anywhere close to normal. Provincetown is now back to mandating masks in public places, because of a spike in cases there. Also, our workforce needs to get back to work. Although the “official” unemployment rate is 5.9%, the actual unemployment rate is calculated to be 9.3% and we are still paying a lot of people unemployment and an extra $300 per week to stay out of the workforce. Ask any restaurateur how things are going and likely their expression will give you your answer. They are stressed, they are struggling with staff levels, and every night is now a Saturday night in terms of business but without the help to do the job.
COVID-19 is not over, and it doesn’t just turn off like a light switch. The most important things we can do are to 1) plan ahead in our purchases, 2) keep our sense of perspective and patience with regard to supply chain challenges and 3) keep our discipline with regard to hygiene, safety, and preventing the spread of COVID. Though vaccines are still a hot topic of debate in some circles, there are studies that say that some 98% people who presently are contracting COVID or dying from COVID are those who chose not to get vaccinated. Nothing in life is 100% but it does make sense to listen to the facts. Stay healthy my friends. Health is the foundation on which we build happiness.