The construction industry expects the good times to keep rolling in 2018, according to a new survey from Associated General Contractors of America.
The group surveyed about 1,000 firms across the U.S. What they found was optimism bordering on giddiness. That includes general contractors in North Carolina, who expressed an almost uniformly sunny outlook on the coming year.
“Construction firms appear to be very optimistic for 2018,” said Stephen Sandherr, the group’s CEO, on a conference call Wednesday to discuss the results. “Contractors expect 2018 to be an even better year than 2017.”
Nationwide, 75 percent of contractors said they plan to hire more workers in 2018, while only 3 percent said they anticipate any cuts. Sixty percent of firms said they’ve increased their base pay rates from a year ago to attract and retain workers, a trend that’s expected to continue.
The big reasons contractors cited for their optimism: Tax cuts, regulatory cuts, a strong economy and the possibility of more infrastructure spending.
There are some possible stumbling blocks, to be sure. An ongoing labor shortage, especially of skilled tradespeople, makes hiring tough, companies said. Almost eight out of 10 contractors said they’re having difficulty finding workers.
Another concern: The Trump administration’s aggressive immigration enforcement, including suspending protections for people brought to the U.S. as children, could diminish the labor pool even further. Sandherr said the AGC supports immigration reforms that would allow people to gain access to legal work status if they pay a penalty.
Among the survey results for North Carolina general contractors:
▪ 74 percent of contractors surveyed in North Carolina plan to increase headcount, with 22 percent planning no change and 4 percent planning to cut workers.
▪ At the same time, three quarters of firms surveyed said they’re having trouble filling salaried and craft worker positions, and 58 percent said they expect the labor shortage to get worse.
▪ Of those North Carolina construction firms adding workers, 19 percent expect to hire more than 25 new employees, while 17 percent plan to hire 11 to 25 and 40 percent plan to hire one to 10 workers.