NEMA’s Lighting Systems Index declined in the third quarter of 2012 after a positive performance in the first half of 2012, falling 3.3% on a quarter-to-quarter basis. On a year-over-year basis the index decreased by 1.1%. Lighting equipment demand has struggled to gain traction since the recovery began and remains well below the levels observed during the previous economic expansion. Of the five categories of lighting systems products included in the index, only miniature lamps and fixtures registered solid gains in sales value compared to the third quarter of 2011.

Lighting output gains are likely to pick up over time as construction activity gradually improves. Housing starts surged in September, climbing more than 100,000 units from August to their highest level since the summer of 2008, prior to the crisis. Building permits, a typically less volatile measure, also showed a jump in September underscoring the sustainable recovery of the housing market.  Total housing starts are projected to climb from 612,000 units in 2011 to 764,000 in 2012, 916,000 in 2013 and 1.16 million in 2014, with multi-family starts expected to see outsized gains both this year and next.    

A sustained, broad-based rebound in nonresidential construction is taking longer to materialize.  Nonresidential construction investment slipped nearly 4% on an annualized basis according to advance data for the third quarter of 2012.  In particular, “electrical equipment intensive” commercial, industrial and energy structures fell at rates of roughly 2%, 10%, and 25%, respectively. Decisive forward movement is not expected before the second half of 2013.