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By: Hilary Dorsey//August 29, 2023//
Report: engineers optimistic about industry’s prospects

By: Hilary Dorsey//August 29, 2023//
The ACEC Research Institute has released results of a study looking at engineering business sentiment for the third quarter of 2023.
New data show engineering executives share a more positive outlook on the U.S. economy now and into the future. At the same time, firm leaders have concerns about inflation and workforce shortages. As firms continue to turn down work, they note a lack of qualified workers as the single largest barrier to business growth.
The survey offers a comprehensive look at current and future conditions in engineering and the larger economy as viewed by 570 executives across the engineering and design services industry. Sentiment is measured via a “net rating” system with zero being neutral. The higher or lower the number, the stronger the sentiment (positive or negative).
Economy & industry sentiment
Among respondents, the current sentiment of the U.S. economy is up 14 points from the second quarter, at +32, while industry and individual firm sentiment remains optimistic.
Sentiment for the U.S. economy is strongest in the Midwest (+46), but weakest in the West (+21).
There is optimism within all market sectors, but it’s strongest in roads and bridges (+84) and water/wastewater (+83). The residential–land development (+37) and commercial real estate (+23) sectors are performing relatively less well.
Supply chain issues also continue to ease as 32 percent of respondents cite this as a concern compared to 56 percent in the fourth quarter of 2022.
Inflation (74 percent) and general economic uncertainty (71 percent) are the greatest concerns fueling negative future sentiment, though both concerns are lessening.
Workforce sentiment
Workforce issues remain top of mind as respondents expect to both increase hiring and have a backlog of projects.
Eighty-seven percent of respondents indicate their firm has at least one opening, down slightly from 91 percent in the previous quarter. The median number of open positions decreased from five to four.
Workforce shortage is having the greatest impact in the Midwest, where 62 percent have turned down work, followed by 61 percent in the West.
Seventy percent agree that a lack of qualified workers is the single largest barrier to growing their company. The same number predict there will be an increase in hiring over the next 12 months at their firms, resulting in a net rating of +66. Sixty-three percent of executives indicate that open positions constitute at least 5 percent of all full-time employees. On average, 10 percent of positions are unfilled.
When asked about the likelihood of the U.S. economy going into recession over the next six months, respondents overall believe there is a 46 percent chance.
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