This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

May 19, 2004

Public Works Employment Will Grow

As we celebrate Public Works Week, employment in this field will be healthy. State and local governments and a number of contractors have been forced into layoff mode because the slow economy has reduced tax revenues. However, economic conditions do not alter the serious need to engage major public works projects over the next few years. Billions of dollars pouring into this field will create thousands of jobs in both the public and private sectors.

Trend watchers in this field anticipate that total public works construction activity nationally will increase 2 percent in 2005 to $80.5 Billion in related contract awards. While that amount is well below the market's recent peak of $87.6 Billion in 2001, it is also more than 18 percent above the total logged in 1998. Public works construction accounts for approximately 25 percent of total construction activity. The housing boom of the last two years adds to the overall strain, requiring more infrastructure to be built to support the growth.

Contract awards for highways and bridge projects are expected to increase to $41.8 Billion in 2004 nationally. In street and highway projects, "market increases will generate $58 to 60 Billion," says another forecaster. Over $300 Billion may be invested over the next six years repairing and upgrading bridges and highways. Awards for sewer and water supply work are expected to cost $17.7 Billion this year. Other observers believe water supply projects alone will push over $10 Billion. Sewer work estimates range between $10.7 and $13.1 Billion. The strongest growth for 2004 is expected for "other public works," which include airport- and rail- related projects, as well as environmental contracts such as river/harbor development---a total value of $21 Billion in 2004.

These numbers only address public works construction and reconstruction---not Regular maintenance---in the United States. Other countries around the world face comparative challenges to build or re-build deteriorating highways, bridges, water and sewer systems, and more. Electric, cable, and telephone systems aren't even included in these numbers.

Workers will have a wide range of opportunities in the public works field over the next few years.

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