Carolinas AGC Construction Barometer(TM) Unchanged; Indications of Improving Construction Business Conditions Seen

    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.
     State-By-State Overview
     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

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