Engineering and architecture are a major driver of the U.S. economy—contributing $386 billion in 2019 revenue, and directly and indirectly supporting $600 billion in GDP, says a new study by the American Council of Engineering Cos. It contends that each additional $1 in design sector revenue contributes $1.55 to GDP.

More than 1.5 million Americans were employed in the design sector in 2019, with 3 million additional jobs supported indirectly, accounting for 3% of all U.S. jobs, according to the study by ACEC's Research Institute. 

Sector-supported wages totaled $311 billion, including $142 billion in direct wages paid and $169 billion to workers in companies with which design firms do business. The research says the design sector paid an estimated $122 billion in total federal, state and local taxes.

"One in every 33 Americans owes his or her job to the engineering and architectural services industry,” says ACEC's research, which concludes that for each new job created, " two more are generated in sectors that support or benefit from their operations.” California, Texas, Florida, Michigan and New York make up more than 40% of total U.S. engineering and architectural services jobs.

According to the study, if the A/E sector "suddenly shut down," the real estate and rental industry would experience a $10.5-billion loss in GDP.

"This is the first time the A/E industry’s impact has been so thoroughly broken down," says Jeff Urbanchuk, ACEC vice president. "We can finally see the indirect impacts of design services, how many jobs are actually supported by engineering and architecture."

ACEC Research Institute Chair John Carrato, who also is CEO of Alfred Benesch and Co., says design sector “reach goes far and wide,” pointing to the analysis as a “valuable tool for showing the .... economic influence” of engineering and architecture.  He adds that a forthcoming study will outline sector future economic impact, with a five-year industry forecast.

The analysis now provides ACEC members "numbers to show what a crucial role we play in the national economy," says Linda Bauer Darr, the group's president and CEO.

According to the group, the research "deploys a standard methodology used widely to measure economic impact, making the results both defensible and comparable with other industries."

The full report, 2020 Engineering Industry Economic Contribution, can be accessed here