WASHINGTON - Combined unitary totals, which haven’t dropped since 2001’s brief 6.2 million-unit relapse, were down 18 percent in 2006, totaling 7,069,296. The record-breaking totals of 2005 dwarfed last year’s numbers as a settling of the supply chain caused a regulating shift after the preparatory ramp up for the 13 SEER deadline had passed. December’s totals, which reached 590,745 in 2005, only measured 93,665 in 2006, leaving them down 33 percent. The shift in energy prices has continued to help increase the growth of heat pump popularity throughout the past year. Even though December 2006’s numbers, totaling 133,813, were down 18.5 percent as compared to 2005, the year-to-date totals slipped just 1 percent. Heat pump shipments, otherwise, have consistently been on the increase since 1997.

Besides 13 SEER, the slumping housing market, among other explanations, has been quoted as a reason for the waning numbers. Commercial work, however, has elevated its demand and has helped balance the tipping market, not only in unitary numbers, but also in employment numbers. “Nonresidential construction jobs jumped in January, while homebuilding employment grew chillier,” said Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), commenting on the January employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

“Nonresidential construction employment growth has been sizzling. Over the past 12 months, nonresidential building contractors and nonresidential specialty trades have boosted employment by 160,000 or 5 percent. In contrast, residential building and specialty trades employment slipped again in January, bringing the year-over-year decline to 84,000 jobs or 2.5 percent of the January 2006 total,” Simonson observed. “I expect home builder numbers will continue to shrink for most of 2007, until they see a marked upturn in home sales.”

Publication date:03/05/2007