The commercial construction industry showed signs of rebound in the latest U.S. Chamber of Commerce Commercial Construction Index. While the overall index score remained fairly steady, increasing by one point to 57 in the third quarter, two of the three main indicators saw increases, pointing to more optimism about the future. Despite the overall gain, the index remains significantly below the score of 74 from the first quarter of 2020.
Confidence in New Business and Revenue Rises
As commercial construction contractors look to the future, 82% now have moderate to high confidence that the U.S. market will provide sufficient new business opportunities in the next 12 months, up from 75% in Q2. The majority (60%) of contractors expect their revenues to remain about the same in the next 12 months (the same as in Q2); 22% expect an increase, up from 17% in Q2.
Job Growth on the Horizon, but Finding Skilled Workers Remains a Challenge
Most contractors (57%) expect to keep the same number of workers in the next 6 months, up from 48% in Q2; and one in three (32%) plan to hire (the same as in Q2). Just 7% expect to reduce staffing, down from 15% last quarter. At the same time, most contractors (83%) report moderate to high levels of difficulty in finding skilled workers. More than one in three (36%) contractors who report difficulty also report turning down work because of it, up from 32% last quarter.
The impact of coronavirus still looms large, but its perceived impact is lessening over time. Nearly all contractors (85%) are still experiencing delays due to the coronavirus outbreak, with 83% expecting delays to continue into the fall and 71% expecting delays will remain through early 2021. However, the average amount of delays has decreased sharply as the year continues. In July, contractors reported an average share of 26% of their projects were delayed, down from 40% in April.
- Worker health and safety remains top concern.
Most (70%) contractors say worker health and safety is a top concern for their business. A majority (60%) report more project shutdowns/delays as another top concern.
- Contractors are taking action to ensure employees are safe.
Nearly all contractors (97%) report making changes in response to COVID-19 this quarter, including providing items like masks and sanitizer (82%); changing work procedures to increase social distancing (75%); and allowing remote work for office employees (67%).
- Concern over fluctuating costs for materials remains relatively high.
Most (62%) contractors indicated that cost fluctuations have a high or moderate impact on their business, up from 59% in Q2.
- Lumber is highest reported shortage.
Over half (54%) of contractors report facing shortages for at least one material, up from 45% in Q2. Wood and/or lumber is the most reported shortage at 11%, up from 5% last quarter.
For more information:
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Commercial Construction Index is a quarterly economic index designed to gauge the outlook for, and resulting confidence in, the commercial construction industry. The U.S. Chamber produces this Index, along with Dodge Data & Analytics (DD&A). Each quarter, researchers from DD&A source responses from their Contractor Panel of more than 2,700 commercial construction decision-makers in order to better understand their levels of confidence in the industry and other key trends. This panel allows DD&A to provide findings that are representative of the entire U.S. construction industry by geography, size, and type of company. For more, visit www.commercialconstructionindex.com.
Modern Contractor Solutions, September 2020
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