The enthusiasm that surged through the U.S. engineering industry following the election of Donald Trump has moderated, according the latest survey of engineering firm leaders by the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC).
The first quarter 2017 (Q1/17) of ACEC’s Engineering Business Index (EBI) dipped slightly (0.5 points) to 66.0. The decline is minimal and the score remains decidedly positive, but is in contrast to the 4th quarter 2016 EBI in which, fueled by Trump’s promises of lower taxes, infrastructure investment, and regulatory reform, the score jumped 5.1 points—the largest quarterly increase in the survey’s three-year history.
Now however, with the administration slow to implement any of these polices, engineering firm leader confidence seems to have plateaued.
The EBI is a leading indicator of America’s economic health based on the business performance and projections of U.S. engineering firms that develop the nation’s transportation, water, energy and industrial infrastructure. The EBI is a diffusion index. The index mean is 50, with scores above 50 indicating business expansion, and scores below 50 indicating contraction. The Q1/17 survey was conducted March 23 to April 24 of 378 U.S. engineering firm leaders.
When comparing today’s market conditions to six months ago, the EBI score climbed 3.2 point to 66.8; while current backlog compared to six months ago was up a strong 5.1 points to 67.1. Additionally, short-term (six-month) expectations for profitability increased 3.5 points to 72.5 points.
Other EBI results however, clearly reflect engineering leader marketplace ambiguity. Market expectations for one year from today fell 2.6 points to 69.5; profitability expectations for the same period were flat (72.9); but looking out three years, expectations fell 2.4 points, and anticipated backlog fell 1.1 points to 70.4.
Concerns about long-term marketplace health resulted in significant declines in nine of the 12 primary public and private sector engineering markets.