US contractors expect tentative improvement

By Chris Sleight15 January 2013

Members of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) expect small improvements in the US construction market this year, according to the association’s annual Business Outlook survey. More than 1,300 companies took part in the study.

Contractors were most optimistic about construction opportunities this year in the hospital and higher education sectors. The power sector also scored highly, with more mixed results in other private sector segments, including retail, warehousing, hotels, offices and manufacturing.

In contrast, there were bleak expectations about publicly funded construction, with overall expectations for a downturn in the sector. All segments of the building market are expected to shrink, with school construction to be particularly hard hit. The picture was more mixed for publicly funded infrastructure work, but even the most positive looking sectors – water and sewer projects – were expected to see a downturn.

On the subject of employment, some 31% of companies surveyed expected to take on more staff this year, with only 9% expecting to cut jobs. This would represent an improvement on 2012, when the AGC says 31% of companies added positions, but 37% made staff cuts.

“While the outlook for the construction industry appears to be heading in the right direction for 2013, many firms are still grappling with significant economic headwinds,” said AGC chief executive officer Stephen E. Sandherr. “With luck and a lot of work, the hard-hit construction industry should be larger, healthier, more technologically savvy and more profitable by the end of 2013 than it is today.”

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