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Report paints bright picture for construction spending, even better if Biden infrastructure bill passes

Following the steep drops in building activity across New York City in 2020, the next three years are expected to see a resurgence in spending and job creation as the industry continues to advocate for increased public investment.

The New York Building Congress’ New York City Construction Outlook 2021-2023 released today forecasts spending to increase to $60.6 billion in 2021, up 26 percent from 2020, when non-essential construction was shut down for 11 weeks.

The report was released today at the annual Building Congress Construction Industry Breakfast, at which Governor Hochul delivered the keynote address.

GOV. CATHY HOCHUL

“Each year I travel to every county in New York State, and I see how infrastructure is not just an abstract concept but an integral part of every New Yorker’s life,” said Governor Hochul. “As Governor, I will pursue an ambitious agenda that brings our infrastructure into the 21st century – because it’s in our DNA as New Yorkers to dream big and tackle the impossible. We can’t get that done without strong public-private sector partnerships like with the New York Building Congress, and I look forward to continue working together to build New York’s future.”

“Despite the economic impact that COVID-19 has had on New York City since the start of the pandemic, the building industry proves its strength time and time again, as spending and job creation continue on an upward trend from 2020,” said Carlo A. Scissura, President & CEO of the New York Building Congress. “With a long road to economic recovery ahead, the ever-present threats of climate change and infrastructure that’s crumbling, we need meaningful, immediate support from Washington. Investments in the infrastructure are investments in a stable and vibrant city, state and nation.”

“Over the last year and a half, the building industry once again demonstrated its dedication to New York City and the amazing people who live here,” said Elizabeth Velez, Chair of the New York Building Congress and President of Velez Organization. “The Construction Outlook report released by the New York Building Congress today shows our industry is ready to lead the way out of the economic crisis brought about by this awful pandemic. In the process, I know we will continue to diversify our own ranks, innovate to meet 21st-Century demands and realities and build a fairer city that works for everyone.”

CHERYL McKISSACK DANIEL

“No matter what you throw at New York City, we are able to withstand it and come back stronger,” said Cheryl McKissack Daniel, Chair of the New York Building Foundation and President & CEO of McKissack & McKissack. “The New York City Construction Outlook 2021-2023 report is further proof of the building industry’s strength in times of crisis. This should underscore why we need more investment in our infrastructure, as it is one of the best ways to improve our society.”

“The essential role of the construction industry to the health and vitality of our communities could not be more clear than in this Construction Outlook report,” said the City of New York’s Senior Advisor for Recovery Lorraine Grillo. “The anticipated robust growth and trajectory for investments in construction jobs, new construction, and our public infrastructure reaffirm the importance of the work by resilient New Yorkers represented by the New York Building Congress in realizing a recovery for all of us.”

“It’s clear that confidence in New York City’s construction and real estate industries remains high, and for good reason,” said Gary LaBarbera, President of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York. “Time and again, it’s been major infrastructure and public works projects that have stimulated economic activity that leads to recovery, and as always, our members are ready to get to work to build back New York stronger and more resilient than ever. It’s critical that we sustain this upward trend in construction activity with the successful passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework, which will invest in New York’s future and create tens of thousands of middle-class careers with benefits in the process.”

“Real estate and construction represent 10 percent of the city’s GDP and is the fastest way of creating the jobs to rebuild the city’s economy,” said Louis J. Coletti, President and CEO of the Building Trades Employers Association.

“As New York builds and rebuilds over the coming years, AIA New York will work with its partners in the building industry to advocate for higher standards of design excellence for public and private projects,” said Benjamin Prosky, Executive Director American Institute of Architects New York (AIANY) Center For Architecture. ”From ambitious designs that enhance public infrastructure to increasing quality affordable housing, modernizing schools, and fostering advancements in energy efficient technology, architects recognize that this is a pivotal  moment for the design, construction, and development community to shape an NYC that is beautiful, efficient and equitable for all.”

The data and projections in this report were generated without the once-in-a-generation federal infrastructure bill that is being discussed in the House of Representatives, which would have a massive economic impact on New York City and the entire country. If the $1.2 trillion plan was to pass, it would expedite construction of the Gateway Program– a long-delayed but nationally crucial infrastructure project that could potentially generate $19 billion in economic activity.

The Construction Outlook report provides a three-year analysis and forecast of construction spending and employment in New York, while also providing deeper insight into the factors that could shape the industry and the city’s economy in the coming years. The New York Building Congress for the first time also adjusted its projections for inflation, giving a fuller picture of how spending compares historically. The latest report forecasts the second-highest spending period in real dollars, and the fourth highest when adjusted for inflation.

Key insights from the report include:

●      Construction Employment to Increase: The industry will likely add 135,000 new jobs to the economy in 2021, but employment will remain at the lowest point since 2014. Employment will likely continue on an upward trend in the coming years, with 140,200 jobs in 2022 and 157,100 jobs in 2023.

●      Overall Spending: Construction spending is expected to total $174.1 billion between 2021 and 2023. Compared to the pre-COVID-19 period of 2017 to 2019, when building was at a high point, spending is forecasted to decrease by just $1.5 billion. When adjusted for inflation, however, the drop is a significantly higher $38.2 billion.  

●      Government Spending: Government spending is up from 2020 – when $21.3 billion was invested by New York City, New York State and major agencies – but will decline in the forecasted period from $23.1 billion in 2021 to $22.2 billion in 2022 and then to $21.1 billion in 2023. While government spending is expected to be higher over this period when compared to 2017 to 2019, public investments is lower now than during the height of the Great Recession when adjusted for inflation. This decline is especially significant given the need for government spending to spur economic recovery.

●      Residential Construction Spending: The Building Congress forecasts $13.6 billion in residential construction spending this year, up 21 percent from 2020. Over three years, spending is expected to total $36.6 billion, which is down 33 percent from 2017 to 2019.  

●      Non-Residential Construction Spending: Non-residential construction spending, which includes office space, education, healthcare, public buildings, sports & entertainment venues and hotels, is projected to total $23.7 billion in 2021, dip to $22.2 billion in 2022 and rise to $25 billion in 2023.

●      Public Transit Spending: The MTA will spend 33 percent more on construction projects over the next three years than the pre-COVID period from 2017 to 2019. When adjusted for inflation, however, this is a more modest increase of 7 percent.

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