NECA TransmissionsNotes from the front lines of the electrical contracting industry

Crystal Ball or Construction Forecast?

Posted on Apr 15, 2008 by John M Grau

In the last six weeks, I’ve attended meetings in Chicago, Hawaii, New Orleans and Florida (twice).  I’ve participated in 10 conference calls with local NECA chapter boards of directors. I mingled with industry leaders from across the country at former IBEW International Secretary-Treasurer Jon Walters’ retirement dinner, and I talked with local business agents at the annual IBEW Construction Conference in Washington, D.C.

So I feel pretty much in touch with what’s going on around the country, industry-wise. But the one thing I still can’t get a handle on is where the construction economy is headed. 

If I read the papers and listen to economists from McGraw-Hill and other industry reporting services, I heard that we’re in a slump. Construction employment is down. That’s to be expected with the contraction in the residential sector.  But these reports say it’s impacted the non-residential sector as well.

When I talk to NECA members directly, they seem very positive about the near-term (next year or so) work picture. Hardly anyone talks about an imminent slowdown. 

I was at a reception with some executives of national trade associations a couple weeks ago, and I ran into my counterpart with the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). He confirmed the same outlook from his members. We both wondered when the other shoe will drop.

At first I thought this sub-prime mess might only impact financial markets. The newspapers often equate what happens on Wall Street with what’s happening on Main Street. A credit crunch eventually works its way throughout the economy.

I am interested in hearing from readers of NECA Transmissions. What’s the electrical construction work picture in your area? Do you expect to be busy for the next couple years? Are there any rumblings of delayed or cancelled projects?

If I get a sufficient response, I’ll report back with the state of the electrical construction industry economy in a future posting.

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NECA Transmissions is a collaborative effort from CEO John Grau and NECA staff to provide insight and feedback on key issues from the front lines of the electrical contracting industry.

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