As 2014 hits its midpoint, it's still unclear how much – if any – ground the Midwest construction industry is gaining this year.
Data from the American Institute of Architects suggest the picture is brightening for Midwest designers and builders and data from the Associated Builders and Contractors suggest it isn't. The Associated General Contractors (AGC) is splitting the difference, with construction employment data it collects suggesting that improvement is occurring in some parts of the region but not others.
Gains haven't been great, nor declines drastic. But conditions remain unsettled. There's no upward thrust or clear trajectory, as has so often been the case with other economic recoveries.
For some parts of the region, recovery has been a non-starter. New data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis indicate that real gross domestic product rose just 0.8% in Missouri and 0.9% in Illinois last year, as compared with 1.8 percent for the entire nation. Missouri ranked 45th among states for growth and Illinois 42nd.
Any wonder that both states are having difficulty funding public construction? Missouri's road and highway program verges on decimation.
The picture is no clearer for the U.S. construction industry. AGC Chief Economist Ken Simonson has described its recovery as “fragile and fragmented,” and characterized prospects for the remaining half of the year as “uneven.”
Although the national construction unemployment rate recently fell to its lowest point in eight years, “the industry remains vulnerable to sudden shifts in demand,” Simonson recently noted.