Construction jobs expected to increase in 2017

Development projects in the region added 1,100 more construction jobs in 2016 than were created the previous year and industry expectations for 2017 are higher as the Trump administration takes office this month, according to a recent survey.

More than 1,300 construction firms surveyed by the Arlington, Va.-based Associated General Contractors of America expect the economy to keep growing and hope the incoming Trump administration will follow through on pledges to fund new infrastructure projects and remove regulatory impediments.

“Most firms expect public and private market segments to expand,” Stephen Sandherr, Associated General Contractors of America chief executive, said.“It would appear their optimism is based in part on their assumption that the economy will continue to grow next year.”

That optimism is generally seen in Ohio, where 57 percent of surveyed firms expect the available dollar volume of projects in 2017 to be higher than 2016 in all areas of construction.

Ohio firms expect higher-dollar volume for water and sewer projects, highway work, private office construction, as well as work on manufacturing sites, higher education and health care facilities, the survey said.

Also in Ohio, 71 percent of responding firms plan to beef up their workforces by at least one to 25 percent, the survey found.

Further, 65 percent of Ohio respondents say they will spend more on worker training and development.

“The bottom line is that 2017 promises to be a good year for the construction industry,” Sandherr said.

John Danis, majority owner of Miami Twp.-based Danis Building Construction, shares the optimism for the coming year.

Danis’ company performs mostly health care and private commercial work.

“We’ve got a nice backlog of work, contracts that we’ve been awarded,” Danis said. “And it looks like there are some good jobs out there that are being planned. We hope to get our fair share of them.”

But finding the right employees will continue to be a challenge, he added.

“There haven’t been enough (qualified employees) due to the recession, people getting out of our industry,” he said. “There is more pressure than ever on that right now.”

As of November, 400 more construction jobs were added in the Dayton area in 2016 compared to the previous year. The Springfield area did not add jobs in 2016, but the Cincinnati area increased by 700 jobs, according to Associated General Contractors of America.

“Seventy-three percent of firms report they are having a hard time finding qualified workers, ” Chief economist Kenneth Simonson, said, noting national data. “And 76 percent of respondents predict that labor conditions will remain tight or get even worse in the next 12 months.”

In Ohio, 41 percent of firms taking part in the survey said they are having a hard time filling both salaried and craft worker positions. Only 12 percent of Ohio firms said they had no trouble filling worker openings.

Where there is optimism in the industry, it’s based on ongoing market conditions, Sandherr said. But he also said pledges by the incoming presidential administration have not been lost on general contractors.

Last month, the Washington Post and others reported that President-elect Trump is preparing to create an infrastructure “task force” to help direct new federal spending. During the campaign, the Republican pledged to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure projects.

“As long as the new administration follows through on its commitments to address out-of-control health care costs, invest in infrastructure and reduce red tape, construction firms will see more demand for their services and will be able to employ more people,” Sandherr said.

As challenging as the construction market is today, Danis said the market is still in a better place compared to recent years.

“I’d rather be in this situation than where we were five years ago,” Danis said.

Total dollar amount of work Ohio construction firms performed in 2016.

$10 million or less: 21 percent.

$10.1 million-$30 million: 21 percent.

$30.1 million-$50 million: 11 percent.

$50.1 million-$100 million: 11 percent.

$100.1 million-$500 million: 16 percent.

Over $500 million: 20 percent.

Source: Associated General Contractors of Amerca 2017 Construction Outlook Survey results.

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