2018 Construction Outlook Remains Strong; Workforce Shortages and Infrastructure Funding Still a Concern

(Photo: AISC)

Seventy-five percent of construction firms plan to expand their payrolls in 2018 as contractors are optimistic that economic conditions will remain strong as tax rates and regulatory burdens fall, according to survey results released by the Associated General Contractors of America and Sage Construction and Real Estate. Despite the general optimism outlined in Expecting Growth to Continue: The 2018 Construction Industry Hiring and Business Outlook, many firms report they remain worried about workforce shortages and infrastructure funding.

“Construction firms appear to be very optimistic about 2018 as they expect demand for all types of construction services to continue to expand,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's chief executive officer. “This optimism is likely based on current economic conditions, an increasingly business-friendly regulatory environment and expectations the Trump administration will boost infrastructure investments.”

Respondents are very optimistic about demand for all types of construction services as measured by the net positive reading – the percentage of respondents who expect a market segment to expand vs. the percentage who expect a market segment to contract. The net positive reading for all types of construction is 44%, the highest yet recorded in the association’s Outlook survey series.

Association officials noted that 75% of firms say they will increase their headcount in 2018, up slightly from 73% last year. Most of the hiring will only expand headcounts by a slight percentage per firm, however. And as firms expand headcount, an overwhelming majority – 82%– of firms expect it will either become harder, or remain difficult to recruit and hire qualified workers in 2018, up from 76% last year. In addition, 78% of firms report they are currently having a hard time finding qualified workers to hire, up from 73% at the start of last year.

Firms continue to take steps to address these growing workforce shortages. Sandherr added that the association would continue to lead efforts to encourage new federal, state and local measures to rebuild the pipeline for recruiting and preparing the next generation of construction professionals. And the association would also remain committed to working with administration officials to help identify regulations that can be improved and others that can be removed.

“In other words, as long as federal officials continue to work to boost infrastructure investments, reduce regulations and support workforce development, 2018 will be a strong year for the construction industry,” Sandherr said.

The Outlook was based on survey results from over 1,000 firms from 49 states and the District of Columbia. Varying numbers responded to each question. Contractors of every size answered over 20 questions about their hiring, workforce, business and information technology plans. Click here for Expecting Growth to Continue: The 2018 Construction Hiring and Business Outlook report. Click here for the survey results.

AISC’s John Cross also provides a look at the 2018 construction economy and beyond in the artice, “Reaching the Peak?” in our current January issue.