New ACEC Research Studies Find Optimism Across Industry

Dec. 10, 2021
Some 600 U.S. engineering firms report that industry has weathered the pandemic, but tight labor market, lack of qualified workers remain as barriers to growth.


Washington, DC, Dec. 09, 2021 -- Today, the ACEC Research Institute released two new reports on the Engineering and Design Services industry: the 2021 Economic Assessment of the Engineering and Design Services Industry, and a new Engineering Business Sentiment Report for Q4 2021

The data shows the industry has rebounded from project postponements due to COVID, though firms identify a tight labor market and lack of qualified workers as continued barriers to growth across public and private markets.

This is the second annual release of the Engineering and Design Services industry assessment, which tracks the industry’s economic contributions, analyzes key economic drivers, and forecasts industry growth.

Snapshot of the Engineering and Design Services Industry:

  • 1.5 million direct full- and part-time jobs;
  • $97,300 average yearly wages;
  • $338 billion in industry sales;
  • $198 billion direct economic contribution;
  • $105 billion collected in total federal, state & local tax.

“The engineering and design industry made critical economic contributions to the nation throughout COVID. We kept our industry employed and infrastructure improvements moving forward,” said John Carrato, ACEC Research Institute board chair. “Looking ahead, the industry is poised for tremendous growth with the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act finally in place. However, we need to expand the pipeline of qualified employees to keep our industry on the path to growth.”

Key Findings from the Engineering Business Sentiment report:

  • 97% of respondents agreed that the industry labor market was tight;
  • 87% of respondents had at least one open position at their firm;
  • 64% of respondents believe their firms will see an increased backlog of projects over the next year;
  • 74% of respondents predict there will be an increase in hiring over the next year at their firm.

The sentiment report, conducted before the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), tracked the sentiment of engineering leaders around the country. The sentiment is measured with a net rating that subtracts the percentage of negative ratings (pessimistic) from the positive ratings (optimistic). The higher the rating, the stronger the sentiment.

The report found that compared to three months earlier, respondents noted positive sentiment for transportation sectors, including Roads and Bridges (+30), Transit (+20), and Airports (+23). Looking ahead 12 months, the net rating of positive sentiment among respondents was even higher for Roads and Bridges (+69), Transit (+60), and Airports (+54).

Passage of the IIJA will further increase the optimism for hard infrastructure improvements and the need for qualified workers, adding an expected $132 billion in economic output thru 2026.

“This is a great time to work in the engineering and design industry as we tackle some of the biggest challenges facing America. The deep bench that is our engineering community has the expertise to provide sustainable projects in the built environment that are safer and more resilient – projects that will benefit society for generations to come. Our industry has a lot to be proud of,” said Robin Greenleaf, ACEC board chair.

“The ACEC Research Institute continues to provide a unique service to engineering firm CEOs and policymakers with valuable insights as we track economic trends in the engineering and design industry,” said Linda Bauer Darr, ACEC president and CEO. “This data tells an impactful story of how far the industry has come and where we can go, together.”

  • Both reports are available for download by clicking here


About The ACEC Research Institute

The ACEC Research Institute is the research arm of the American Council of Engineering Companies – the business association of the nation’s engineering industry. The ACEC Research Institute’s mission is to deliver knowledge and business strategies that guide and elevate the engineering industry and to be the leading source of knowledge and thought leadership for creating a more sustainable, safe, secure and technically advanced built environment. For more information, go to

For more, contact Jeff Urbanchuk, American Council of Engineering Companies, [email protected].