The impact of 2020's recession, although short-lived, continues to be seen across both the U.S. economy and the Engineering & Construction industry more generally. As we move into a second year of recovery, the E&C industry will play a major role in supporting the nation's growth. The IIJA (Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act), will disperse $1 trillion in investments across public infrastructure- boding well for E&C firms, and is likely to accelerate recovery within the non-residential segment. The residential segment is expected to align with 2021's strong activity.
Deloitte's 2022 Engineering & Construction Industry Outlook identifies 5 key trends to watch this year that present both opportunities and challenges as we head into the second quarter amidst persistent pandemic-induced supply shortages, global unrest, continued supply chain and transportation challenges and increased M&A activity across the industry.
1. Industry Growth: Construction spending continues to recover, and residential activities continue to stay strong despite rising material prices and the continued concerns about Coronavirus variants. In the non-residential segment, spending growth saw a notable decline in 2021, but it is expected to start a recovery trajectory in 2022. On Friday, April 1st, the U.S. Census Bureau released monthly construction spending statistics from February 2022, citing a 10% rise in overall (private and public) construction spending Y/Y for the same period in 2021. As of the end of Q4 2021, the Commercial Construction Index (CCI) - a quarterly economic indicator designed to gauge the outlook for, and resulting confidence in, the commercial construction industry- fell 1 point from Q3 to Q4 2021. Backlog, a key driver, improved slightly, while revenue and new business confidence fell quarter over quarter.
2. Industry Profitability and Performance: Supply chain disruptions and sourcing challenges are likely to affect project delivery and project margins. The vulnerabilities of global supply chains- exposed by the pandemic and further exacerbated by the war in Ukraine- will make supply chain disruptions and price volatility among the biggest challenges of 2022 for firms across the industry.
3. Connected Construction: Emerging construction technologies, and the data and advanced analytics that these new technologies can enable will inevitably push the industry toward more connectedness, integration and the automation of operations that will bring the value chain onto a more secure, intelligent infrastructure.
4. Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A): 2021 saw transaction levels in the M&A sphere increase by 152% y/y from 2020. In the first 8 months of 2021 alone, the industry saw $16 Billion in deal value. This is expected to further pick up pace in 2022 as E&C firms look to acquire technologies in an effort to move towards more connected construction.
5. Talent Challenges: Firms will continue to grapple with labor shortages, finding qualifies candidates and implementing measures to address safety concerns as the workforce landscape evolves. In 2022, it will be critical to adapt existing talent strategies, form new talent management agendas and invest in navigating workforce challenges.