2021 - Utah Construction Outlook

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National Outlook

Dodge Data & Analytics predicts a slow and uneven recovery throughout the year with cautious optimism. Construction starts in 2020 declined by 14% in dollar value but are expected to rebound by 4% in 2021.1

Construction employment has increased by 42,400 jobs since November which has now recouped 96% of the employment losses incurred in March and April. 2

Sectors with the strongest outlook include Warehouse (8%), Healthcare (8%), Single-Family Housing (7%) and shopping centers (7%). Shopping centers has a surprising outlook since it declined by 25% in 2020. However, its being driven by the influx of new homeowners in suburban areas which is staying strong due to low mortgage rates and workers moving away from cities.2

Sectors with the weakest outlook include:

  • Hotels (-7%)
  • Education (-3%)
  • Multifamily (-1%)
  • Public/Institutional (0%)

Education and Public projects remain low or flat due to uncertainty with federal aid and lower tax revenues. 1, 2

Local Outlook

Utah continues to be economically strong and well above national economic trends. Since March 2020, Utah is the only State to show an increase of the Economic Performance Index. While the National Index declined by 5.2% since March, Utah’s increased by 5.9%.3

The total permit-authorized construction value during the first half of 2020 was $4.8B which was a 0.4% increase over last year and set a year-to-date record. While commercial dropped by 8% and residential dropped by 0.5%, additions, alterations and repairs kept values strong with an increase of 19%.4

Residential continued to be strong through the end of 2020 and is expected to continue into 2021. This is being driven by an ongoing shortage of 53,100 housing units and a record low resale inventory. The average number of listings between May and August 2020 was down 31% compared to the same months between 2016 and 2019.5

Commercial initially saw a pause due to COVID uncertainty primarily in hospitality, retail and office. However, a glance at the number of cranes in the Salt Lake skyline shows that things are not slowing down with multi-family being one of the strongest sectors. As a few examples, work continues on Kensington Tower which will be Utah’s tallest skyscraper with 380 luxury condos. 6  The $144M Post District is well underway that will bring 580 apartments and substantial square footage for retail and office.7 The North Temple Corridor has also had applications submitted this year for 2,280 new housing units that is being driven by high-density and opportunity zone designations.8

The ongoing challenge for construction in Utah does not seem to be the economy but more of a workforce issue.

“Contractor volumes and backlogs have been good, but firms are still having a major issue with skilled workforce. In some cases, that is the single largest challenge our contractors are having” says Rich Thorn, Utah president and CEO of AGC.9

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PCI recently completed the award-winning Lehi Public Safety Building as the Construction Manager Representative. PCI provided initial planning, feasibility studies, cost management, design management and construction management. The project was completed on-time and within budget.


State-of-the-art Police Station designed to engage various architectural styles and periods, including the historical Broadbent Building.

To learn more about what PCI could do for you, visit our website https://www.pci1980.com to see more projects or contact us today!


  • 1 Dodge Data & Analytics Expects Construction Starts to Recover in 2021. https://www.construction.com/news/dodge-data-analytics-expects-construction-starts-recover-2021
  • 2 Alisa Zevin, 2021 Forecast; A Slow Road to Recovery, ENR, November 23, 2020
  • 3 Natalie Gochnour, Utah’s Economic Exceptionalism, American Affairs Journal, Winter 2020; Volume IV, Number 4
  • 4 Ivory Boyer Construction Report, Second Quarter 2020
  • 5 Dejan Eskic, What’s Keeping Utah’s Real Estate market Hot in the Time of COVID?, Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, September 2020
  • 6 Taylor Anderson, Developers still on tract to start Utah’s tallest skyscraper this June, www.buildingsaltlake.com, December 21, 2020
  • 7 Tony Semerad, New building plans unveiled for downtown Salt Lake City’s transformative Post District, The Salt Lake Tribune, June 30, 2020
  • 8 Taylor Anderson, Putting the incoming explosive growth along North Temple into perspective, www.buildingsaltlake.com, December 28, 2020
  • 9 Mountain States Industry News for December 2020, ENR Mountain States

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