Concrete Products is the leading source for Concrete Plants, Concrete Mixers, Precast, and Ready Mix news.

Contractor optimism abounds in Commercial Construction Index

Source: U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Washington, D.C.

Commercial construction is in high demand across the U.S. and contractors remain optimistic about the current and forward-looking health of the sector, according to the Q3 USG Corporation + U.S. Chamber of Commerce Commercial Construction Index. Nearly all contractors surveyed this summer (95 percent) expect revenues to grow or remain stable over the next 12 months compared to the prior 12 months, continuing Q2 2017 survey sentiments.

Most contractors (93 percent) also expect to see profit margins stay the same or increase in the year ahead. Despite expectations for growth, access to talent continues to pose challenges, with 60 percent of contractors having difficulty finding skilled workers. Nearly all contractors participating in the USG + U.S. Chamber Index survey say they are at least moderately concerned about the skill level of the workforce, with 66 percent of contractors in the South expressing concerns about the availability of skilled labor. The Index release comes on the heels of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which are expected to exacerbate labor shortage concerns.

"The Commercial Construction Index is unique in providing the contractor's view of the state of the industry, which is a key driver of the U.S. economy," says Jennifer Scanlon, president and chief executive officer of Chicago-based USG. "This quarter's findings reveal strong optimism about future prospects for the industry, and also highlight a real need to address ongoing concerns about skilled labor shortages and the impact it has on building in the U.S."

The Index looks at the results of three leading indicators to gauge confidence in the commercial construction industry—backlog levels, new business opportunities and revenue forecasts—generating a composite index on a scale of 0 to 100. The Q3 2017 composite index score was 73, down slightly from the second quarter's 76, but close to the first quarter's 74. Among Q3 survey findings per the three indicators:

  • Backlog. On average, contractors currently hold 9.5 months of backlog, close to their average ideal amount of 12 months, indicating a steady market and healthy amount of booked work. This represents 77 percent of their ideal backlog levels.
  • New business. More than half of contractors (54 percent) reported high confidence in new business over the next 12 months (compared to 59 percent in Q2).
  • Revenues. The majority of contractors (67 percent) continue to expect revenues to grow or remain stable in the next year, although expectations for the rate of expected growth inched toward more modest levels (compared to 71 percent in Q2).

"The commercial construction industry employs millions of Americans and the contributions the sector makes to the economy are vital to our country's growth," says U.S. Chamber CEO Thomas Donohue. "However, finding skilled workers remains a challenge for this industry, and it's likely to remain a challenge in the areas affected by the recent hurricanes. Finding skilled construction workers will be essential to ensure the Gulf region is able to quickly and efficiently rebuild. Our nation must address our workforce challenges to enable the economy to grow."