“We are in recession. Full stop. No question about it,” Dodge Data & Analytics Chief Economist Richard Branch notes in a revised North American construction outlook reflecting potential impact of Covid-19 response measures. “We need to figure out the depth of this recession and what a potential recovery looks like.”
His forecast considers epidemiological assumptions that infections will peak this month and begin to subside by July, thus allowing the economy to slowly return to normal. National, state and local actions impacting construction equate to year-over-year residential and commercial project starts dropping 13 percent and 16 percent, respectively. Hardest hit commercial segments will be retail and lodging, with starts off 33 percent and 31 percent. Branch likewise sees a 13 percent decline in nonbuilding project starts.
HIGHWAY FUNDING DROUGHT
The Dodge market update mirrors transportation construction stakeholder sentiments. Mindful of the impact of sharp declines in fuel tax receipts stemming from national shelter in place orders, the 11-member Highway Materials Group has requested that U.S. House and Senate leadership consider granting immediate use of nearly $50 billion in flexible federal funding to offset revenue shortfalls constraining state department of transportation budgets.
“Our members work across the country with local and state DOT officials on critical public works projects that enable the delivery of medical supplies, food and essential goods needed to overcome the [Covid-19] crisis. This work is paramount to our economy as we improve commerce, congestion, water and energy delivery,” the group notes in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).
“Funds are necessary in order to prevent major disruptions in [state DOTs’] ability to operate and maintain their transportation systems during this national emergency. Without Congressional action, state DOT budgets will be severely limited in allocating much-needed investments to improve their infrastructure, resulting in further job loss and economic decline,” adds HMG, whose members include the American Coal Ash Association, National Ready Mixed Concrete Association, Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute and Portland Cement Association.
LIBRA COVID-19 INITIATIVE
Concrete, aggregate and asphalt plant automation, scale ticketing and business integration solutions provider Libra Systems is offering E-Ticketing at no charge as part of its Covid-19 Care Initiative. The company’s other ‘hands-free’ solutions that help maintain social distancing include self-service kiosks, remote printer terminals, and Camera ID. — Libra Systems, Harleyville, Pa., www.librasystems.com