Contractors Pessimistic About Construction Outlook for 2021

Contractors are generally pessimistic about the outlook for nonresidential and multifamily construction in 2021, according to findings from the 2021 Associated General Contractors (AGC)-Sage Construction Hiring and Business Outlook Survey. “Respondents were asked whether the dollar value of projects they compete for would be higher or lower in 2021. The net reading (the percent of respondents expecting a higher dollar value less the percent expecting a lower amount) was negative for 13 out of 16 project types. The only positive net readings were for healthcare other than hospitals (e.g., clinics, testing/screening facilities, medical labs), with an 11% net positive; warehouse, 4%; and water/sewer, 1%.

“Contractors were most negative about retail construction (-64% net reading), followed by lodging and private office (-58% each), higher education (-40%) and public building (-38%). Only 25% of respondents reported winning new or expanded projects as a result of the pandemic, while 78% reported at least one project had been postponed or canceled. Breakouts of the answers by respondents in 25 states, the four Census regions, and by union/open-shop showed broad similarity on new or canceled projects but differences in expectations. For instance, net readings for all 16 segments were higher than the national average among respondents in the South and lower in the Northeast. About one-third (35%) of firms nationally expect to increase headcount in 2021, compared to 76% in the 2020 survey, while 24% expect to reduce headcount, compared to 5% a year ago.”

The survey included 1,329 responses submitted November 11-December 11 from every state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

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