Iowa contractors add employees in 2012, plan more hires in 2013

Production costs, healthcare costs increasing

A majority of Iowa construction companies added employees in 2012 and expect to hire additional workers this year — despite concerns about rising health care insurance costs.

A survey by the Associated General Contractors of America released Monday showed 46 percent of Iowa construction companies added employees in 2012.

Of the respondents:

  • 18 percent added more than 25 workers to their payroll
  • Another 18 percent hired 16 to 25 employees
  • 36 percent took on 6 to 15
  • 27 percent added 5 or fewer.

This year appears promising, too. Thirty-eight percent of Iowa construction companies plan to add employees this year compared to 17 percent that expect to lay off workers.

Of those planning to hire, 33 percent expect to add five or fewer employees, 44 percent plan to hire six to 15 workers and 22 percent reported plans to hire 16 to 25 employees.

"While the outlook for the construction industry appears to be heading in the right direction for 2013, many firms are still grappling with significant economic headwinds," said Stephen Sandherr, chief executive officer of Arlington, Va.-based AGCA. "With luck and a lot of work, the hard-hit construction industry should be larger, healthier, more technologically savvy and more profitable by the end of 2013 than it is today."

Among other details revealed in the AGCA survey, 96 percent of the Iowa construction companies said the cost of providing heath care insurance to their employees increased in 2012. For this year, 88 percent anticipate the cost of providing heath care insurance to their employees will increase.

Nationwide, the survey found significantly more companies planning to add staff this year compared with the number of construction companies expecting to make layoffs. Thirty-one percent plan to add staff this year, while only 9 percent plan layoffs.

The scope of those staff additions are likely to be modest, however, with 79 percent reporting they plan to hire 15 or fewer people, and only 13 percent planning to hire more than 25 new workers this year.

Contractors also are increasingly optimistic about their ability to raise their bids for projects, reflecting higher material costs. Twenty-eight percent of the companies responding to the survey expect to increase the amount they charge for construction this year — nearly double the 15 percent of companies that boosted prices in 2012.

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