This industry covers general and special trade contractors primarily engaged in the construction of water and sewer mains, pipelines, and communications and power lines.
Water, Sewer, and Pipeline Construction
Power and Communication Transmission Line Construction
According to the U.S. Census Bureau's Statistical Abstract of the United States, in 2001 there were 7,483 companies involved in water, sewer, and pipeline construction, down from 8,042 in 1997. Their 165,800 employees earned over $7 million. Although the number of contracting companies declined, the number of employees increased, reflecting consolidation within the industry. In 2002, according to Census statistics, there were 14,977 companies employing 297,286 workers, generating an annual payroll of more than $12 million.
During 2005, according to the latest industry statistics, there were 14,287 companies engaged in water, sewer, and pipeline construction, down slightly from 14,977 in 2002. There were an estimated 255,055 workers employed within the industry contributing to the annual revenues of $41,096.70 million. Each company had approximately 12 employees, and average company revenues were $3.6 million.
The largest sector within the industry was the water, sewer, and utility lines sector, which had 3,320 firms and more than 23 percent of the market. The combined workforce stood at 60,857. Underground utilities had 2,151 firms and more than 15 percent of the market. There were an estimated 41,963 workers employed as underground utility contractors. Sewer line construction represented more than 11 percent of the overall market with 1,650 firms and 24,890 workers. Other significant sectors included oil and gas pipeline construction, telephone and communication construction, water main construction, and electric power line construction. There were a total of 52,419 workers employed within these smaller, but important sectors.
The three segments of the water, sewer, and utility lines construction industry share a common trait: project-based organizational structure. To facilitate project completion, various general contractors and subcontractors form transitory networks that sometimes last for several years. Nevertheless, the three segments of the industry are distinguished from each other by their key stakeholders, market segments, and projected growth rates.
The utility construction industry is exceptionally sensitive to fluctuations in tax legislation and the investment community and experienced a decline during the early 2000s, caused by a decline in overall spending in the United States during a time of economic downturn. The pipeline construction industry, however, benefited from declining spot market prices and increased consumer demand for natural gas. As a result, there was a dramatic increase in building for that sector. The water and sewer construction segments respond to legislative actions and government spending. Decreased federal outlays and financially strapped state and local governments slowed growth for this segment of the industry. Legislative mandates that foster modernization and replacement of older aqueduct systems were expected to create long-term growth, however.
This segment of the heavy construction industry includes the building of new power plants, transmission lines, pollution control facilities, conversion of existing power plants from oil/gas to coal, and modernization of existing power plants. Spending on utility construction slowed considerably after the passage of the 1986 Tax Reform Act. According to a...