Associated Builders and Contractors reported today that its Construction Backlog Indicator declined to 8.0 months in January, according to an ABC member survey conducted Jan. 20 to Feb. 4. The reading is down 0.2 months from December 2021, but up 0.5 months from January 2021.
ABC’s Construction Confidence Index readings for sales, profit margins and staffing levels all inched lower in January. All three indices remain above the threshold of 50, indicating expectations of growth over the next six months.
“Despite the omicron variant, ongoing supply chain issues, elevated energy and materials prices and rampant staffing shortages, the average nonresidential contractor remains upbeat,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the survey findings is the expectation that industry profit margins will expand during coming months, implying that contractors expect to pass along enough price increases to project owners to countervail the rising costs of construction service delivery.”
“The last two months have indicated declining backlog, but the dips are not cause for particular concern,” said Basu. “Declining backlog indicates that some projects are postponed or canceled in response to rising costs and/or extended delivery timelines. The principal challenge for contractors remains a lack of sufficiently skilled labor, a structural issue that will not go away soon and a circumstance contractors have dealt with for years. The situation is likely to deteriorate further as federal infrastructure dollars begin affecting the economy more forcefully in the near future.”
Note: The reference months for the Construction Backlog Indicator and Construction Confidence Index data series were revised on May 12, 2020, to better reflect the survey period. CBI quantifies the previous month’s work under contract based on the latest financials available, while CCI measures contractors’ outlook for the next six months.