Markets

2022 Outlook for Commercial Construction and Masonry

The commercial masonry industry can expect a modest 0.2% growth rate in 2021. The market size of the masonry industry grew slower than the overall construction sector, but still outpaces the overall economy.
By Christy Crook
December 8, 2021
Topics
Markets

As 2021 comes to a close, it’s only natural to turn our gaze to the immediate future and imagine what lies in store for the commercial masonry industry next year. But beforehand, it’s always helpful to get a read on the current state of the industry. According to data compiled by IBISWorld, a leading market research company, here’s a snapshot of the commercial masonry industry in the United States.

Market Size: $31 billion
Number of commercial masonry contractors: more than 93,000
Commercial masonry employment: more than 225,000
Industry growth: 2% average (between 2016 and 2021)

The commercial masonry industry can expect a modest 0.2% growth rate in 2021. The market size of the masonry industry grew slower than the overall construction sector, but still outpaces the overall economy. The U.S. Department of Labor, which tracks wages and the outlook on jobs by industry, reveals a median pay level of nearly $50,000 annually, with an expected 24,600 projected openings for masonry workers each year. This is despite current challenges in recruiting skilled labor, but more on that point later.

Positive Economic Factors

There have been some notable recent developments that should have a positive effect on the commercial construction industry as a whole. The case rates of the pandemic continue to decline, causing different sectors of the economy to continue to open on a broader scale. As the threat to public health continues to diminish, the push to return to the workplace becomes stronger. Additionally, international travel restrictions have just been lifted, buoying tourism and commerce that should increase the demand for refurbishing the infrastructure needs of many U.S. cities. The GDP has returned to pre-pandemic levels, and the U.S. economy—which grew at 6% in 2021—is expected to grow an additional 4% next year. Figures such as these foster a positive banking environment, as reflected in the relaxed commercial lending standards that support mid-to-large scale construction projects.

Building Back Better

On a policy level, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act finally cleared every legislative hurdle, which promises to have a positive impact on the commercial construction industry. The act aims to build back better in many areas of infrastructure neglected for far too long. As for the construction industry, a whopping $550 billion is earmarked for direct impact over the next five years. This includes ports, roads, railways, transit, bridges, broadband communications, and other refurbishments that will also include a major backlog of projects and repair work deferred by the pandemic. Moody’s Investors Services studied the projected impact of the infrastructure bill, and predicted that U.S. construction spending—which has grown at a respectable 3% rate in the past two years, could reach a 5% to 5.5% annualized growth rate by 2023.

These and other current plans have led to a hopeful and cautiously optimistic atmosphere for commercial masonry contractors in the near-term. However, a balanced look should also take into account the challenges the industry as a whole is currently facing—two of which are pressing concerns: supply chain disruptions and workforce shortages.

Employment and Recruiting

According to the most recent data analyzed by the Associated Builders and Contractors, based on U.S. Department of Labor figures, the construction industry has recouped 86.5% of all pandemic-related job losses. And construction unemployment, currently at 4%, is still beneath the overall unemployment rate of 4.6%. But when it comes to recruiting skilled labor, the construction industry is clearly struggling. More than three-quarters of commercial contractors report having trouble filling positions. Whether it’s a lack of skills, an inadequate pipeline of trade schooling, or even a failure to recruit more females into the industry, the problem is widespread and needs corrective action sooner rather than later.

Material Costs and Supply Chain Woes

The effect of the rising cost of materials is an unanimous issue for the commercial masonry sector, as well as the construction industry as a whole. Whether supplies and materials are stuck on a container ship or in the back of an Amazon delivery van, commercial contractors have become quite familiar with kinks in the supply chain. These factors, coupled with the industry wide skilled labor challenges, are responsible for a majority of delayed projects. Having an adequate masonry crew on the jobsite, but a lack of materials, is bad for business. As is having adequate materials on the jobsite and a lack of qualified workers. The worst-case scenario is when it’s both.

Despite these challenges, there’s still plenty of reasons for renewed optimism for a productive year in 2022. The Associated Builders and Contractors Backlog Indicator for October—a predictive measurement of future work—rose to 8.1, up another half percent from September. And demand for construction services is up—and that was before the fate of the infrastructure bill was factored into play. Once the immense amount of federal funding is allocated at the state level, let’s hope the promise of building back better was an accurate one.

by Christy Crook
Christy Crook is the president of Phoenix Masonry, a Denver-based commercial masonry firm she founded in 2010. Crook serves on the board of the American Subcontractors Association, the Rocky Mountain Masonry Institute, and Transportation and Construction GIRL, a nonprofit that encourages young women to explore careers in the transportation and construction industries. She’s an active member of the American General Contractors Association, Associated Builders and Contractors, and the National Association of Women in Construction. She can be reached at christy@phoenix-masonry.net.

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