flexiblefullpage -
billboard - default
interstitial1 - interstitial
Currently Reading

After a strong year, construction industry anxious about Washington’s proposed policy shifts

Market Data

After a strong year, construction industry anxious about Washington’s proposed policy shifts

Impacts on labor and materials costs at issue, according to latest JLL report. 

By John Caulfield, Senior Editor | March 22, 2017

Construction spending outpaced the nation's GDP growth in 2016, according to JLL's latest construction outlook. But spending remains uncertain this year, as the industry waits to see whether new policies on labor and trade emerge from the new administration. Image: Pixabay

The new Trump Administration’s aggressive policies, particularly on international trade and immigration reform, could, if executed as planned, “greatly affect” how America’s construction industry does business this year and beyond.

In its Q4 2016 Construction Outlook, which it released earlier this week, JLL also continued to see construction labor as a “pain point” for the industry that will cause wages to rise and impact project timelines and budgets. And materials costs, which for the most part stabilized in the latter months of 2016, should hold steady if, as expected, construction activity slows this year.

Twenty-sixteen was a banner year for construction spending. Led by the hotel and office sectors, spending increased over the previous year by 4.5% to $1.2 trillion. That rate of growth was nearly triple the GDP inflation rate.

Nationally, the construction and contractor backlog in Q4 2016 stood at 8.7 months of future work across all sectors, up 2.2 percent from the fourth quarter 2015 and tracking closely with national trends. The Midwest in particular enjoyed sizable year-over-year growth that quarter, while work in the South remains steady. The Northeast and West regions continued to slip, each well below 2015 levels.



Not surprisingly, construction costs are rising faster in metros where construction activity has been robust, but also where labor is in shorter supply. Image: JLL Research


Building costs rose nationally by a modest 2.7%, with nearly half of that increase occurring in the fourth quarter, spurred by strong residential construction that drove demand, and uncertainly surrounding the effects of the Trump presidency.

JLL doesn’t expect the manifestations of policy decisions coming out of Washington to intervene on the construction industry until later this year. But JLL’s forecast strikes a cautionary pose about the prospects of “voided international trade deals and new import tariffs [that] could drive up materials costs faster.”

And at a time when construction unemployment continues to fall—last week, AGC America reported that from January 2016 to January 2017 construction employment rose in 39 states and in 216 of 358 metro areas—immigration reform “could shrink the skilled labor supply and spur further wage increases,” says JLL’s report. Large-scale infrastructure projects will create a premium on materials and workforce in specific markets such as Oakland and San Francisco, Chicago, and New York.

Inflation in materials costs is harder to gauge when trade agreements are in flux. The largest price swings in 4Q 2016 were seen on the cement and lumber fronts: cement costs were down 4.7% compared to the same time last year, while lumber was priced 9%-plus higher. Steel, on the other hand, maintained negligible price changes, not even breaking one-tenth of a percentage point over third-quarter prices.

One barometer worth keeping an eye on is the IHS Markit PEG Engineering and Construction Cost Index, which tracks procurement activity among engineering and construction firms. In March, that Index registered its fifth consecutive month of rising prices.

Eight of 12 materials/equipment categories tracked showed rising prices in March. And the six-month expectation index stayed positive, although materials and equipment prices are projected to rise at a slower pace than subcontractor labor.


Related Stories

Contractors | Dec 6, 2022

Slow payments cost the construction industry $208 billion in 2022

The cost of floating payments for wages and invoices represents $208 billion in excess cost to the construction industry, a 53% increase from 2021, according to a survey by Rabbet, a provider of construction finance software.

Mass Timber | Dec 1, 2022

Cross laminated timber market forecast to more than triple by end of decade

Cross laminated timber (CLT) is gaining acceptance as an eco-friendly building material, a trend that will propel its growth through the end of the 2020s. The CLT market is projected to more than triple from $1.11 billion in 2021 to $3.72 billion by 2030, according to a report from Polaris Market Research.

Market Data | Nov 15, 2022

Construction demand will be a double-edged sword in 2023

Skanska’s latest forecast sees shorter lead times and receding inflation, but the industry isn’t out of the woods yet.

Reconstruction & Renovation | Nov 8, 2022

Renovation work outpaces new construction for first time in two decades

Renovations of older buildings in U.S. cities recently hit a record high as reflected in architecture firm billings, according to the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

Market Data | Nov 3, 2022

Building material prices have become the calm in America’s economic storm

Linesight’s latest quarterly report predicts stability (mostly) through the first half of 2023

Building Team | Nov 1, 2022

Nonresidential construction spending increases slightly in September, says ABC

National nonresidential construction spending was up by 0.5% in September, according to an Associated Builders and Contractors analysis of data published today by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Hotel Facilities | Oct 31, 2022

These three hoteliers make up two-thirds of all new hotel development in the U.S.

With a combined 3,523 projects and 400,490 rooms in the pipeline, Marriott, Hilton, and InterContinental dominate the U.S. hotel construction sector.

Codes and Standards | Oct 26, 2022

‘Landmark study’ offers key recommendations for design-build delivery

The ACEC Research Institute and the University of Colorado Boulder released what the White House called a “landmark study” on the design-build delivery method.

Building Team | Oct 26, 2022

The U.S. hotel construction pipeline shows positive growth year-over-year at Q3 2022 close

According to the third quarter Construction Pipeline Trend Report for the United States from Lodging Econometrics (LE), the U.S. construction pipeline stands at 5,317 projects/629,489 rooms, up 10% by projects and 6% rooms Year-Over-Year (YOY).

Designers | Oct 19, 2022

Architecture Billings Index moderates but remains healthy

For the twentieth consecutive month architecture firms reported increasing demand for design services in September, according to a new report today from The American Institute of Architects (AIA).

boombox1 - default
boombox2 -
native1 -

More In Category

halfpage1 -

Most Popular Content

  1. 2021 Giants 400 Report
  2. Top 150 Architecture Firms for 2019
  3. 13 projects that represent the future of affordable housing
  4. Sagrada Familia completion date pushed back due to coronavirus
  5. Top 160 Architecture Firms 2021


Magazine Subscription

Get our Newsletters

Each day, our editors assemble the latest breaking industry news, hottest trends, and most relevant research, delivered to your inbox.


Follow BD+C: