Construction contractors expect increasing demand for numerous types of projects in 2022 despite ongoing supply chain and labor challenges, as most firms plan to add workers this year, according to survey results released January 12 by the Associated General Contractors of America and Sage. The findings are detailed in Expecting Growth While Coping with the Lingering Impacts of the Pandemic: The 2022 Construction Hiring & Business Outlook.
“Contractors are, overall, very optimistic about the outlook for the construction industry in 2022,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “While contractors face challenges this year, most of those will be centered on the need to keep pace with growing demand for construction projects.”
The percentage of respondents who expect a market segment to expand exceeds the percentage who expect it to contract – known as the net reading – in 15 of the 17 categories of projects included in the survey.
The highest expectations among predominantly private-sector categories, with a net reading of 41 percent each, are for warehouses and other healthcare facilities, which includes clinics, testing facilities and medical labs. The outlook for hospital construction is also strong, with a net reading of 38 percent.
Contractors were also optimistic about multifamily residential construction, with a net reading of 32 percent, and manufacturing construction, with a net reading of 27 percent. Expectations were more subdued, however, for public buildings, with a net reading of 20 percent; kindergarten through 12th grade school construction, with a net reading of 19 percent; higher education facilities, with a 16 percent net reading; and lodging, with a 6 percent net reading. Only two categories received negative net readings, both of -8 percent: retail and private office construction.
Optimism about growing demand for many types of construction projects is leading many firms to plan to hire workers this year. Seventy-four percent of respondents expect their firms will expand headcount in 2022, compared to just 9 percent that who expect a decrease. Forty-seven percent of firms expect to increase their headcount by 10 percent or less. However, 22 percent say their headcount will grow by 11 to 25 percent and 5 percent anticipate an increase of more than 25 percent.
Adding those workers will be a challenge, however. An overwhelming 83 percent report they are having a hard time filling some or all salaried or hourly craft positions, compared to only 8 percent who say they are having no difficulty. And three-fourths of respondents say it will continue to be hard to hire or will become harder to hire this year.
The pandemic continues to impact the construction industry, association officials noted. Eighty-four percent of respondents report costs have been higher than anticipated, while 72 percent say projects have taken longer than anticipated because of the pandemic. As a result, 69 percent have put higher prices into bids or contracts, while 44 percent have specified longer completion times.
Supply chain bottlenecks are also impacting construction. Only 10 percent of firms report they have not had any significant supply chain problems. Sixty-one percent have turned to alternative suppliers for materials and 48 percent have specified alternative materials or products.
Rising construction costs and slowing schedules have contributed to a significant number of project delays and cancellations. Forty-six percent of contractors report having a project delayed in 2021 but rescheduled, while 32 percent had a project postponed or canceled that has not been rescheduled.
“The last two years have become increasingly unpredictable, due in large part to the coronavirus and public officials’ varied reactions to it,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “But, assuming current trends hold, 2022 should be a relatively strong year for the construction industry.”
The Outlook was based on survey results from more than 1,000 firms from all 50 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.