Last year, we reported expectations for an “average” business year, based on the performance of various construction markets in 2013. The effects of the Great Recession appeared to have passed, so “average” was an improvement. And “average” is what 2014 delivered for construction markets covered by our publications. Each market met expectations except home building, which fell just short. (Download the digital version of the full report.)
Confidence across markets continues, and each expects 2015 to be a better business year than 2014. The level of confidence, however, is still cautious. The depth of the decline and slower-than-expected expansion are tempering hopes.
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Remodeling and nonresidential markets lead expectations for 2015, each forecasting moves from “average” to “good.” Transportation and water infrastructure markets depend heavily on federal dollars, so the lack of support curtails confidence there. Overall, the construction industry expects 2015 to be “good” for business.
Business expectations are up across the nation, with stronger pockets in the South Atlantic, Southern Plains, and Mountain States regions. Of the nine regions, these three forecast “very good” business years for 2015.
Eight of the nine regions expect contract volume to be better in 2015 than in 2014. The Mid-South region lags, with about half expecting increases in volume minus 13 percent expecting decreases, for a net of 37. Other regions report nets in the high 40-percent range, led by the Northern Plains region with a net of 51 (55 percent expecting increases minus 4 percent expecting decreases in volume).
Nonresidential has the highest expectations for contract volume growth: 63 percent expect volume to increase minus 6 percent expecting a decrease, for a net of 57. Both infrastructure markets report nets of 30. Transportation reported 41 percent expecting volume to grow minus 11 percent expecting decline, and water reported 61 percent expecting growth minus 31 percent expecting decline.
Competition is heating up, led by nonresidential’s report of 75 percent saying it is “intensely” or “very” competitive. Home building reports the smallest levels, with 53 percent saying markets are “intensely” or “very” competitive.
Construction firms hope to increase bid prices in 2015, with a net of 64 (68 percent expect bid prices to go up minus 4 percent expecting them to go down). Here, home building reports the highest net, 76, with 78 percent expecting bid prices to increase minus only 2 percent expecting decreases.
Bid price forecasts may be driven by material costs, which everyone expects to increase. A net of 80 is reported: 82 percent expect materials to cost more this year than in 2014 minus 2 percent expecting a decline. Again, home building reports the highest net: 86 expecting price increases minus 1 percent expecting declines, for a net of 85.
Finally, respondents report firm health continues to strengthen. In 2013, about 60 percent said their construction firms were in “very good” or “good” health, up from 50 percent in 2012. For 2014, two-thirds of respondents say the overall health of their firms is “very good” or “good.”
The Construction Equipment Annual Report & Forecast is presented in partnership with Case Construction Equipment.
Methodology: Each magazine sent email invititations to its subscriber base, inviting participation in an online survey. Almost 2,000 responded. Respondents by market include fleet managers, 222; transportation, 528; water infrastructure, 299; home builders, 208; remodelers, 380; and nonresidential, 342.