Even with gloomy news of client cutbacks, results of a new survey of 300 owners are giving construction managers some hope that more in-house project management roles would be outsourced.

At the annual convention of the Construction Management Association of America in San Diego, some 1,000 attendees learned Oct. 4 that at least half of owners who responded to the study, done jointly by CMAA and industry management firm FMI, reduced internal staff in the last two years; 18% noted cutbacks of more than 20%. Nearly one-third of respondents to the survey, which CMAA says is "across a wide range of markets and regions," report staff layoffs.

About 40% of the owner respondents report no hiring plans until at least 2013, but 28% say they will not hire at all at that time, according to the survey. Respondents say that when conditions improve enough to resume hiring, they will use "alternative strategies" such as rehiring retirees, use of part-time or more junior staffers and "hiring from competitor and consultant workforces," says CMAA.

"The trends ... will profoundly affect owners' ability to manage projects effectively," the report notes.

But presenter Roger Snoble, former head of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority and current member of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's infrastructure advisory committee, pointed to the state's future construction potential as new bond measures are set for a vote next month. He said that of 84 measures appearing on local ballots in southern California in recent years, 64 passed.

L.A. transportation officials are now trying to figure out how to build 11 key mass transit projects in the next 10 years instead of the next 30, an acceleration that could save millions of dollars in financing costs and boost construction activities, said Snoble.