Despite staffing challenges, contractors are optimistic, on balance, regarding their hiring plans and the volume of work available in 2020 for nonresidential and multifamily construction, based on a survey released by Associated General Contractors of America (AGC).

Respondents were asked whether the available dollar volume of projects they compete for would be higher or lower than in 2019. For all 13 categories of projects, between 27% and 36% of respondents expect a higher volume, while 10% to 21% expect a lower volume. (The remainder expects the volume to remain about the same.) The difference, the net reading, ranged from 25% positive for water and sewer construction down to 8% for private office construction. On balance, respondents were more optimistic than in the 2019 outlook survey for multifamily, infrastructure and institutional categories but less upbeat than before for other nonresidential building segments. Only 5% of respondents expect their firms to reduce headcount in 2020, compared with 75% who expect an increase (compared with 77% a year ago and 75% two years ago). In addition, 81% say they are having a hard time filling salaried or hourly craft positions (up from 78% a year ago) and 65% say it will be as hard or harder to do so in 2020 (down from 68%). Nearly half (44%) of respondents (up from 33%) said project costs had been higher than anticipated and 41% (up from 37%) said they have put higher prices into bids or contractors. Similarly, 40% (up from 34%) said projects had taken longer than anticipated and 23% (up from 18%) said they had put longer completion times into bids or contracts. The survey was conducted from November 6 to December 9 and garnered 956 responses. The survey was sponsored by software firm The Sage Group plc, Newcastle upon Tyne, England, United Kingdom, and included several questions about use of information technology, as well as recruitment, training, top concerns, safety and other topics. Results are available for 13 states and four regions, three revenue size classes and union/open-shop.