While speaking on the magazine’s 2023 Q3 “Economic Update and Forecast” webinar, Anirban Basu, The Associated Builders and Contractors’ Chief Economist, said, “the economy has been much stronger than I would have anticipated.” But while job growth, low unemployment and increased spending on construction are positive signs, Basu remains wary of the longer-term outlook, pointing to red flags such as skyrocketing credit-card debt and other industry economic indicators. “My view,” Basu told his online audience, “is the national economy is weakening, increasingly under pressure from higher interest rates, strikes, worker shortages and loss of production; borrowing costs are higher; and excess inflation persists.”
Our attached report, is one quick and easy way to see the trends behind the headline. The AIA Billing Index is on a four month negative trend, including the last two months below 50. The ABC and FMI backlog indicators are both on negative trends and neither has returned to pre-pandemic levels.
Quick summary: Contractor backlogs are lower right now and there will be less opportunities to pursue throughout 2024. For owners, this could ultimately result in increased competition and more competitive pricing.
A couple of examples from Q3 Miles-McClellan bidding and budgeting efforts:
- Craig Richards, Vice President, “Our division originally bid a sizeable renovation project to a large, international CM firm. During Q3, 2021, the wall protection package was worth $6.7M and was removed from the scope of work due to being over budget. The package was rebid during Q2 of 2023 at $7.6M. This was a 13% increase in 18 months.”
- Kevin Joseph, Project Executive, “My team is continuing to feel the effects of bad owner budgets. We recently were low bidder on a City of Columbus job that is 45% over budget. The job is unawardable and the City is now trying to figure out what they can do to value engineer the job. I’m not confident that value engineering will be able to make up such a large disconnect between the budget and the reality of local construction costs. We were also recently low bidder on a public job in Mifflin Township that is unawardable due to a blown budget.”
- Matt Recchiuti, Vice President, “Much like Kevin, really the only trend I am seeing is that Architects are woefully underestimating public budgets to owners, and almost all of the Public Work bids are having to re-bid to due a shortage of requested funds. We are still seeing delays in HVAC equipment and Electrical gear, most of the time up to a year.”