Industry News: Construction materials shortages will continue into 2021

February 19, 2021
a stack of wood 2 by 4s demonstrates the need for managing construction materials shortages in 2021

The global pandemic has greatly impacted the construction industry – in a previous post, Capitology blog discussed how the higher risk of exposure has led to more cases of COVID-19 for construction workers. However, staffing shortages are not the only impact the virus has had on the industry.

As reported by Zachary Phillips for ConstructionDive, material shortages persist throughout construction. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Commercial Construction Index (CCI), which gauges the outlook for and confidence in the industry on a quarterly basis, improved from Q3 to Q4 of 2020, it’s still far below the pre-pandemic level.

“According to the report, 71% of contractors surveyed are facing at least one material shortage,” reports Phillips. “Lumber was the most-cited material shortage (31%), followed by steel or electrical supplies other than copper wire (11%) and lighting supplies (10%).”

Lumber shortages are of the greatest concern, increasing from 11% in the previous quarter. In an effort to address the shortage, the U.S. Department of Commerce lowered tariffs from 20% to 9% on Canadian-imported lumber.

According to the Q4 2020 CCI, 41% of contractors say less availability of building materials is a severe consequence of COVID-19, and 68% anticipate that construction delays will continue into the spring of 2021.

On top of the shortages, many materials having gone up in price, including fuel, copper, steel, aluminum, and most drastically, steel and lumber.

The Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America reported in early December that, “readers have forwarded letters from mills and suppliers in the past week that announced price increases—some for the second or third time this fall.”

These trends are expected to continue in 2021, impacting not only cost, but lead times, reports Phillips. The CCI report shared that 83% of contractors reported product delays and 71% were having a difficult time meeting schedule requirements.

However, the construction outlook isn’t entirely bleak. The CCI reported that contractors are “cautiously optimistic” about medium- and longer-term projects. Market trends also show a “moderate-to-high confidence in new business opportunities and steady revenue and profit expectations.”

When looking out over the next 12 months, a large percentage of contractors, 85%, report a “moderate to high level of confidence” in new construction business, according to the CCI. Sentiments about financing are also improving, with overall confidence in maintaining and obtaining financing increasing from Q3 to Q4 of 2020.

Students studying construction management at Capitol Tech take courses in estimating, construction methods and materials, project management, planning, and scheduling. All of these courses are geared toward creating construction managers that are able to overcome any issues that may arise related to materials availability.

Want to learn about construction management? Capitol Tech offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in construction, facilities, and safety. Many courses are available both on campus and online. To learn more about Capitol Tech’s degree programs, contact