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February 2021 Trends

Parul Dubey on February 1, 2021 - in Featured, News, Trends

In this section, Informed Infrastructure compiles infographics from trusted sources that reveal insight on infrastructure spending. We also compile some of the top infrastructure stories that shouldn’t be missed. For ongoing news coverage, turn to Informed Infrastructure online (www.informedinfrastructure.com), our Twitter feed (@IInfrastructure) and our weekly e-newsletter.

In its January 2021 report, “Failure to Act: Economic Impacts of Status Quo Investment Across Infrastructure Systems,” the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) quantifies how the persistent failure to invest in our aging infrastructure impacts the economy, including GDP, jobs, personal disposable income and business sales.

ASCE finds that with an increased investment of $281 billion a year ($5.48 more per household a day), the United States can eliminate this drag on the economy, protecting by 2039:

• $10 trillion in GDP, nearly half of the annual U.S. GDP in 2019.

• More than $23 trillion in total output (primarily business sales).

• More than 3 million jobs in 2039.

• More than $3,300 in a family’s annual disposable income each year from 2020 to 2039, which is more than half of the average American household’s monthly expenditure of $5,102.

Failure to invest in long-term infrastructure upgrades will likely result in trillions of dollars in lost business productivity and severely disrupt the movement of people and freight, the ASCE warned. A decline in business productivity of about $23 trillion over the next two decades is projected absent sizable funding injections that would remedy roads, bridges, tunnels, ports, power grids and water systems. Researchers also noted that planned investments totaling about $7.3 trillion would still result in a $5.6 trillion investment gap by 2039.

The full report can be accessed at www.asce.org/failuretoact/.

Engineering Drives Significant Economic Activity and Employment

According to a new survey from the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) Research Institute, the “engineering and architectural services” sector directly employs more than 1.5 million Americans and supports an additional 3 million indirect jobs, making up 3 percent of all U.S. jobs. The “2020 Engineering Industry Profile” also found that the engineering and architectural services sector drives $386 billion in annual revenue.

Additional key findings from the report include the following:

• The engineering and architectural services sector employs more than 1.5 million people and pays an average annual salary of $88,000, far exceeding the national average of $60,300.

• The engineering services sector was significantly larger than the architectural services sector in 2020, with engineering services comprising about two-thirds of the jobs.

• California, Texas, Florida, Michigan and New York comprise more than 40 percent of total U.S. engineering and architectural services industry employment.

• Engineering and architectural service activity also generates nearly $45 billion worth of tax revenue for various local, state and federal government agencies—more per company and employee than most other U.S. sectors.

The full report is available for download at programs.acec.org/impact-report/.

The ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the “recovery trajectory” of U.S. airports, toll roads and ports, prompting Fitch Ratings to refine its recovery assumptions, which the rating agency detailed in a new report (bit.ly/36lTb55).

The rating agency is implementing “more severe downside parameters” to reflect transportation segments that are on very different recovery trajectories compared to its last analysis issued in July 2020.

“The slowest recovery lies ahead for airports, with 2019 volume levels not likely to return until at least 2024,” explained Jeffrey Lack, one of Fitch’s directors. He added that the rating agency’s revised outlook projects a recovery for airports to 55 percent of 2019 traffic levels by the first quarter of 2021, reaching 75 percent of 2019 traffic levels by the fourth quarter of 2021—with total enplanements for 2021 reaching 65 percent of 2019 traffic levels.

Lack noted that Fitch’s projections assume an effective vaccine/treatment for the COVID-19 virus will not be widely available until late 2021.

Toll roads, by comparison, should rebound more strongly. “Toll roads have already recovered more than half of peak losses and are well-poised to rebound by 2022 as the pandemic wanes,” noted Scott Monroe, another Fitch director.

Due to the hard-hitting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the clean energy industry finished 2020 with its fewest number of workers since 2015. It also marked the first year clean energy saw a decline in jobs compared to the previous year. These findings were taken from an analysis of federal unemployment filings BW Research Partnership prepared for E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs), E4TheFuture and the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE).

According to the report, about 16,900 jobs were added in December 2020 by U.S. clean energy businesses, leaving more than 429,000 (12 percent of the sector’s pre-COVID-19 workforce) still unemployed. Ten months after the nationwide unemployment crisis began, 70 percent of the jobs lost in the clean energy sector have yet to be recovered. At the rate of recovery since June 2020, it would take about two and a half years for the clean energy sector to reach pre-COVID employment levels. It would take an additional year to reach the levels of clean energy employment that had been projected for 2020 before the pandemic struck.

The full jobs report can be accessed at bit.ly/39db7AJ.

The U.S. transportation construction market is expected to shrink 5.5 percent in 2021, driven primarily by the severe economic recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic, according to an annual forecast released by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA). Overall, the value of work is expected to drop from $294.2 billion in 2020 to $278.1 billion in 2021, according to ARTBA Chief Economist Dr. Alison Premo Black’s analysis.

The expected market contraction follows a record year for most transportation sectors in 2020. Although Pennsylvania and Washington state temporarily shut down projects in the spring, the rest of the country classified transportation construction as an essential industry.

Transportation improvements continued with enhanced safety protocols in place. As a result, total transportation construction activity—after project costs and inflation—is expected to increase by nearly 4 percent in 2020, with significant gains in highway and street construction (+8.3 percent), subway and light-rail work (+8.8 percent), airport terminal and runway construction (+7.2 percent), and port and waterway spending (+12 percent). Bridge and tunnel construction was the exception, with activity falling 20 percent in 2020, reflecting several broader market trends including a focus on smaller structures.

The full forecast can be purchased at bit.ly/2Y1ZjuF.

The following are the top stories from the last few months (in terms of traffic) on the Informed Infrastructure website. This also reflects key coverage areas that are regularly refreshed online and via our weekly e-newsletter. Simply search key words on Informed Infrastructure online to find the full story.




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