Gradual progress predicted in 2012 for commercial construction

The economic forecast for commercial and industrial construction in the U.S. for 2012 is one of gradual improvement, say the Associated Builders and Contractors in a release today.

“ABC’s analysis of construction trends indicates 2012 will be a year of gradual progress as advances in private construction are partially offset by ongoing declines in publicly financed construction,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu.

“Nonresidential construction spending is expected to grow 2.4 percent in 2012 following a 2.4 percent decrease in 2011,” Basu said. “The pace of recovery in the nation’s nonresidential construction industry remains soft and 2012 is positioned to be a year of slow gain. The first half of 2012 may be particularly challenging, a reflection of the soft patch in economic activity experienced during much of the first half of 2011.

“ABC’s national Construction Backlog Indicator, which stood at 8.1 months for both the second and third quarters of 2011, is not expected to advance substantially and likely will remain in the vicinity of eight months of backlog for much of 2012,” said Basu.

“However, backlog is one month higher from the same time last year. A backlog of less than eight months is associated with construction spending declines, while a backlog exceeding eight months is statistically associated with future construction spending increases. Today’s level of backlog is consistent with flat construction spending," he said.

“Nonresidential building construction employment is expected to increase 0.4 percent in 2012 following lackluster 0.6 percent growth in 2011,” Basu said. “Employers will continue to seek increased productivity among existing workers in order to boost weak industry margins.

“There may be a degree of relief for construction contractors with respect to materials prices. In 2011, prices for construction inputs rose 7.5 percent,” said Basu. “ABC expects 2012 materials prices will rise 4.7 percent. Despite a sluggish construction recovery, input prices are likely to remain elevated as global investors retain significant ownership in commodities and hedge against risks emerging from Europe, the United States, China and Brazil.