Matt Nathan analyzed the current state of the construction industry, referring to the Oxford industry outlook.
This is a more in-depth examination of the US construction industry, with a report on the construction industry status of other countries found here.
Current Strengths and Weaknesses
The year 2023 is shaping up to deliver mixed results for the construction industry. While declines have been observed in residential construction, non-residential construction has experienced growth. Nevertheless, the industry as a whole remains resilient, despite pockets of decline experienced in certain sectors this year. We anticipate this resilience to continue into 2024. One of the notable weaknesses is the management of working capital. Some businesses are holding high levels of inventory and accounts receivable, which is placing pressure on their operating cash. This situation could potentially lead to liquidity constraints if they cannot secure adequate external financing from lenders.
Comparing to Prior Years
Compared to previous years, the overall outlook for the construction industry isn’t as promising due to the slowdown in residential construction. However, as we move into 2024, residential construction is expected to find some relief as the Federal Reserve concludes its current cycle of interest rate hikes in the latter months of this year. The residential segment has been negatively affected by the significant increase in interest rates over the past year as the Fed continues its efforts to combat inflation. Higher borrowing costs have discouraged potential homebuyers, resulting in a modest 10.1% decline in demand for residential construction in 2023. Nevertheless, growth is projected to return in 2024, with the residential forecast indicating a real gross output increase of 1.4%. There’s potential for further growth next year if the Fed implements any rate cuts in the latter half of the year in response to inflation stabilizing.
The non-residential sector has received support from government stimulus in recent years, exemplified by the passing of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which directly aids construction activity. This support has continued to have an impact in 2023, particularly in spaces within the sector such as civil engineering and energy-related construction. This has led to a 6.1% growth in this area for 2023. Although the impact of this stimulus is expected to diminish in 2024, growth at a more modest rate of 2.9% in the non-residential sector is still anticipated.
In recent months, profit margins have come under pressure due to a combination of increased costs related to interest, materials, and labor. While in previous years it was easier to pass these cost increases on to consumers due to high demand, it has become more challenging as consumers continue to cut back on discretionary spending in the current environment.
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