Contractors’ revenue outlooks and profit margin expectations for the next year have increased slightly in the fourth quarter of 2020. That’s according to the Q4 2020 Commercial Construction Index (CCI), released quarterly by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Dodge Data & Analytics, which includes an overview of key market trends impacting the construction industry, which includes glass and glazing.
Profit, Revenue and Financing
A quarter of contractors expect a revenue increase in the coming year, up from 22% in the third quarter report, while 14% expect a revenue decrease in the next 12 months, down from 19% in the Q3 2020 report. However, 61% of contractors expect their revenue to remain the same.
Contractors profit margin expectations showed a similar trend. While 68% of contractors expect no change in profit margins over the next year, 20% expect an increase and 12% expect a decrease, that’s up from 17% and down from 14% in the last quarter, respectively.
When it comes to project financing, nearly two-thirds of contractors expect their access to working capital financing to remain the same in the next six months. That’s up from 55% in Q3 2020. Twenty percent of contractors expect access to become more difficult, down from 30% last quarter, while 6% expect it to become easier, up two percentage points from the last CCI report.
The percentage of contractors that believe building owner access to financing will get easier or remain the same in the next six months also increased in Q4 2020 from 52% to 59%.
A growing number of contractors intend to spend more on tools and equipment in the next six months. In the fourth quarter, 36% of contractors say they plan to spend more on equipment in the next six months, up from 30% in Q3 and 28% in Q2. However, the percentage is still far below the 54% reported in the Q1 2020 report. This quarter, 49% say they won’t increase spending and 14% are unsure.
Contractors continue to be concerned about fluctuations in the cost of building materials, with nearly three-fourths of contractors indicating that fluctuations have a moderate to high impact on their business. That’s up from 63% in the third quarter. Of those who mentioned that the fluctuation in building and material costs have a considerable impact on their business, 61% said wood/lumber is the product of most concern, followed by steel at 30%.
Materials and Tariffs
Most contractors (71%) are experiencing a shortage in building products and materials, an increase of 17 percentage points from last quarter. In addition, those contractors experiencing materials shortage report a bigger impact, with 89% reporting a moderate to high level of impact, up from 75% in the third quarter.
Contractors’ top reported material shortages include:
- Wood/lumber – 31%;
- Steel – 11%;
- Electrical products other than copper wire – 11%; and
- Lighting products – 10%.
According to the CCI report, lumber has seen higher demand due to a boom in residential construction since the pandemic began.
Concern about tariffs seem to be diminishing among contractors. Nearly one-fourth (24%) of contractors say steel and aluminum tariffs will have a high degree of impact on their business in the next three years. That’s down from 29% in Q1 2020 and 40% in Q4 2019. Only 12% of contractors report that steel and aluminum tariffs will have no impact on their business over the next three years. However, that’s up from 8% in the first quarter of last year.
Contractors’ concern about international trade conflicts remains steady, with 20% expecting high impacts from trade conflicts with other countries, down only one percentage point from Q4 2019. Meanwhile, 14% say trade conflicts will have no impact in the next three years, up from 11% in the first quarter.
The data in the report is from a Q4 2020 survey conducted online from October 1-6, 2020 and November 10-15, 2020. Fifty-six percent of respondents are prime contractors and 44% are specialty trade contractors.