- Contractors are optimistic for 2022, according to a member survey from the Associated General Contractors of America.
- The net reading — or percentage of respondents who expect the available dollar value of new work to expand compared to the percentage who expect it to shrink — is positive for 15 out of 17 categories from AGC's survey. That is a stark turnaround from 2021, where respondents had negative expectations in most sectors.
- Indicative of that optimistic outlook, AGC found 74% of firms intend to hire in 2022, despite supply chain challenges that are slowing project starts and previous labor shortages.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) has played a large part in this confidence boost. Respondents were most optimistic about highway and bridge construction, with 63% expecting a large dollar value of projects to compete for. They were also upbeat for transit projects, such as rail and airports, with a net positive reading of 51%.
Despite nearly three-quarters of firms expecting to hire in 2022, 83% of respondents reported continuing troubles filling salaried or hourly craft positions. Three-fourths of respondents said they expect the difficulty to continue.
On a call with media about the report, AGC CEO Stephen Sandherr indicated that the infrastructure funding that created optimism could also help recruitment issues.
"If we see long-term sustainable funding, that would and should aid in our efforts to recruit people in the industry," Sandherr said. "If we can demonstrate to them there is funding in the future, their jobs won't be in jeopardy."
Both Sandherr and AGC Chief Economist Ken Simonson said it's vital that the appropriation funds from the IIJA become available soon, in order for that optimism to be fulfilled.
Nevertheless, when it comes to the supply chain, Simonson noted, some manufacturers are responding to the increasing demand for materials, citing a recently announced $3 billion U.S. Steel plant project in Arkansas.
Also on the call, Charlie Wilson, president of CT Wilson Construction in Durham, North Carolina, said that supply chain and material delays are not always as bad as they seem. Wilson said he has experienced material delivery dates changed to months earlier than anticipated after his company has ordered them, which he attributed to suppliers likely wanting to avoid overpromising.
The bottom line is that the issues construction has seen either during or because of the pandemic will continue into the new year, but contractors' confidence isn't withering.
"Our ultimate goal is to make sure that contractors' optimistic outlook for 2022 becomes a reality," Sandherr said.