ACEC Research Institute
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ACEC Survey: Engineering Firms Gaining Optimism

Aug. 29, 2023
Third-quarter Business Sentiment Report finds engineering leaders bullish on hiring, overall economic outlook.


WASHINGTON, DC, August 28, 2023 — Today, the ACEC Research Institute released its Engineering Business Sentiment report findings for the Third Quarter of 2023. 

New data show engineering executives share a more positive outlook on the U.S. economy now and into the future. At the same time, firm leaders list concerns about inflation and workforce shortages as their biggest issues. As firms continue to turn down work, they note a lack of qualified workers as the single largest barrier to growing their company.

  • Download a copy of the new report here.

This survey offers a comprehensive look at current and future conditions in engineering and the larger economy from the viewpoint of 570 executives across the engineering and design services industry. It measures sentiment through the use of a “Net Rating” system with zero being neutral. The higher or lower the number, the stronger the sentiment (positive or negative).

“The data shows executives have a more positive economic outlook, but workforce pressures are still impacting their businesses,” said Joe Bates, lead researcher with the ACEC Research Institute. “Still we’re seeing optimism across the different sectors.”

Economic & Industry Sentiment

Among respondents, the current sentiment of the U.S. economy is up 14 points from last quarter coming in at a +32 reading, while industry and individual firm sentiment remains extremely optimistic. 

Current sentiment remains very optimistic within all market sectors. Sentiment is strongest in Roads and Bridges (+84) and Water/Wastewater (+83).

Supply chain issues also continue to ease as only 32% of respondents cite this as a concern compared to 56% in Q4 2022.

Workforce Sentiment

Workforce issues remain top of mind as respondents expect to both increase hiring and have a backlog of projects.

Seventy percent of respondents predict there will be an increase in hiring over the next 12 months at their firms, resulting in a Net Rating of +66. Sixty-three percent of executives indicate that open positions constitute at least 5% of all full-time employees. On average, one out of 10 positions are currently unfilled. 

“Hiring is poised to ramp up if engineering firms have access to qualified candidates,” said Mike Carragher, Chair of the ACEC Research Institute. “The sectors executives feel most optimistic about are sectors that strongly benefit communities: roads and bridges, along with water and wastewater. They’re vital to our everyday life.”  


The ACEC Research Institute is the independent research arm of the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) - 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. 

Contact: Allison Schneider, (810) 334-0939.