CHARLOTTE, N.C., Aug. 22 /PRNewswire/ -- The most recent Carolinas AGC
Construction Barometer(TM), which tracks quantitative data as well as opinion
among contractors and industry allies, remains at 2.97, unchanged from the
fourth quarter of 2002. However, a look inside the quarterly numbers
indicates that the Carolinas construction industry may have turned the corner.
Strengthened contractor expectations for improved business conditions by
mid-2003 along with a significant advance in anticipated highway and utility
spending in both Carolinas drove a hefty gain in one Barometer component. The
quantitative data in the Business and Economic trends moved up sharply in the
first quarter 2003 report, posting a 13.3 percent gain from fourth quarter
The general level of unemployment within the Carolinas labor market
remained virtually unchanged from fourth quarter 2002 to first quarter 2003,
stemming the tide of job losses evident in previous reports.
"It's very likely that we've turned the corner on the 2001 - 02 recession
in commercial construction, and we're beginning to see better business
conditions throughout the nonresidential construction industry," says Tony
Plath, UNCC associate professor of finance and developer of the Carolinas AGC
Barometer. "It's too early to call the growth trend emerging from the
Barometer a genuine turning point, but it is a growth trend and it points to
better business conditions in coming quarters."
According to Plath, the Barometer points to slow, steady improvement in
the construction industry with a much better outlook than it has had at almost
any point in the last five or six quarters. He says job losses in other
sectors of the economy, combined with contractors' increasing difficulty in
finding qualified workers, and a slight deterioration in financing
availability are only minor negatives in the overall economic scheme.
North Carolina's Barometer rose 1.5 percent to 2.96, while South
Carolina's Barometer declined to 3.00, down 3.1 percent from fourth quarter
2002. North Carolina's Business and Economic trends series of the
quantitative index moved up 22.6 percent, while South Carolina posted a modest
2.7 percent decline in this series.
Rising NC Department of Transportation spending is at least partially
responsible for the strength of anticipated business improvement in North
Heartland North Carolina holds the most positive outlook, posting a
30.1 percent increase in the Business and Economic trend segment of the
Quantitative Index. Contractors in this region anticipate greatly increased
business activity in coming quarters. Recent announcements of public works
projects in the region, increased DOT spending and several large private
sector projects in the Charlotte area support this upbeat attitude.
Eastern and Western NC are both moderately down, 0.2 percent and
3.8 percent respectively. Business expectations are slightly improved in
Eastern North Carolina, but this was offset by lower labor availability and
expectations of labor cost increases. In Western North Carolina, financing
activity fell off 4.6 percent, indicating a decreased willingness to borrow
for business expansion.
The Barometer in Lowcountry South Carolina tumbled 8.4 percent, pushed
lower by weaker anticipated business activity, a softening in the labor market
and weaker credit conditions. Upstate South Carolina's Barometer eased down
0.7 percent. Stronger demand for commercial credit and increased DOT spending
in the region points toward better days ahead in the Upcountry.
As the largest AGC chapter in the US with 3,200 member firms, Carolinas
AGC builds its members' businesses through workforce development, business
development, profit management, and a self-insured workers' compensation
trust. More than 75% of commercial/industrial work (buildings, highways,
utility facilities) in the Carolinas is performed or supported by CAGC
SOURCE Carolinas AGC