Construction and Industrial Mineral Production in the Post-Recession Economy

The economic recession that began in 2007-2008 was a significant set-back for construction and industrial materials producers in California. We know things are better now, but it is interesting to look at the numbers to see where we have been and where we are now.

Below we have highlighted the data available for three time periods: 

  • The 9 years prior to the recession (1999-2007)
  • The depth of the recession (2008-2012)
  • The four or five most recent years (2013-2016 or 2017)

The peak of aggregate production (both sand and gravel and crushed stone) in California was reached in 2004 at 244 million tons. In fact, the 9 year  eriod from 1999 to 2007 saw an average of 231 million tons of aggregate produced year. But, from 2007 to 2008 there was a precipitate drop from 208 million tons to 157 million tons—25% less in one year!  

The five years from 2008 to 2012 averaged only 128 million tons, a 45% reduction or about 115 million tons less than the prior period. The low was 113 million tons in 2011. For the most recent five years, 2013-2017, production has averaged 142 million tons.  That is still about 90 million tons below the pre-recession yearly average.

Ready Mixed Concrete
Production from California's over 300 ready mixed concrete plants has seen a similar swing. The peak year for ready mixed concrete production was 2005 at 56 million cubic yards. The nine years from 1999 to 2007 saw production average 49 million cubic yards a year.

But, by 2010, production had dropped to a low of 23 million cubic yards.  In fact, in the period from 2008 to 2012, production averaged only 27 million cubic yards per year. That's just about half the annual production for the 1999-2007 period. For the most recent five years from 2013-2017, production has averaged 34 million cubic yards. So, on average, it remains about 15 million yards shy of the pre-recession levels.

Production of portland cement concrete (PCC), the cement most commonly used n production of concrete products,has also experienced declines from pre-recession levels. The average annual cement production in the period 1999 to 2007 was 12.2 million tons, whereas in the period 2008-2012, production dipped to 8.8 million ons.The high was 13.2 million tons in 2004; the low was  .7 million tons in 2010—an over 40% drop!  For the most recent four years, 2013-2016, production has averaged 10.6 million tons.    

Industrial Minerals
Of course, California is a mineral rich state with producers providing over two dozen minerals that are important to the state's agriculture, manufacturing, and construction industries. Although production data is not available on all, numbers are available for industrial sand, used in the making of glass and other products. Prior to the recession, production averaged a consistent 2 million tons annually with a high of 2.2 million in 2005. From 2008-2012, production dropped about 25% to 1.5 million tons. For the most recent four years, 2013-2016, production has averaged 1.6 million tons.

For other industrial minerals, California remains the top producer nationally of diatomite, and a significant source for many clays, gypsum, boron, rare earth elements, agricultural limestone, specialty limestone, pumice, soda ash, gold and silver. 


In general, what do the numbers tell us? While the averages obscure some of the year-to-year highs and lows, they show how deeply production was impacted by the recession, and how, despite a return to more normal economic times, production levels remain below pre-recession levels. 
Note: Numbers derived from California Geological Survey's Non-Fuel Mineral Production Reports, and US. Geological Survey Mineral Industry Surveys.