Building contractors, for the most part, are upbeat about 2017 and what the year ahead portends for the industry, as reflected in a survey compiled by the Associated General Contractors of America and Sage Construction and Real Estate.
The survey is called "Expecting a Post-Election Bump: The 2017 Construction Industry Hiring and Business Outlook," and 73 percent of the construction company executives who took part in it said they plan to expand their payrolls during the new year, among other conclusions.
Survey results also mirror a belief among contractors that both private and public sector demand for infrastructure will grow this year, and that virtually all industry segments will make healthy gains.
"Contractors have relatively high expectations for 2017, as they predict the economy and demands for all types of construction will grow," said Stephen E. Sandherr, AGC's chief executive officer. "As a result of this optimism, many firms expect to expand their headcount."
In spite of the expected increase in payrolls, the overall size of firms will not be affected too much, the AGC said.
"Sixty-six percent of the firms report their planned hiring will increase total headcount between one percent and 25 percent, while only six percent report they will expand their headcount by more than 25 percent this year," Sandherr said.
At the same time, 46 percent of the respondents said they would expect a higher dollar volume of projects in 2017 than in 2016, while just nine percent said they expect a lower volume. The remaining 45 percent expect volumes to remain more or less the same.
The AGC also said 73 percent of the respondents are reportedly having a hard time finding qualified workers, and 76 percent predict labor conditions will remain tight, or get worse, during the next 12 months.
"Contractors remain quite concerned about labor shortages, tight margins and growing costs," said Ken Simonson, chief economist for the AGC. "In particular, as additional older workers reach retirement age, firms will struggle to find qualified workers to replace them."
"Fifty-two percent report they have increased base pay rates, 35 percent report they are providing incentives and/or bonuses, and 28 percent report they have increased contributions to employee benefits," the AGC reports.
The survey was based on responses from nearly 1,300 construction firms, with contractors answering over 30 questions about their hiring, workforce, business and information technology plans.