Is it time to loosen your belt?

The economy remains sluggish, but contractors are hoping for an improved year

2004 may be the year roofing contractors can relax and re-examine their tight budgets. Seventy-six percent of respondents to NRCA's Quarterly Market Condition Report say they are cautiously optimistic about the economic conditions for the next 12 months (the poll was taken in September). When comparing current conditions with those from 2002, 31 percent of respondents say conditions are slightly better (14 percent report conditions are better; 26 percent think conditions are the same; 16 percent believe conditions are slightly worse; and 13 percent say conditions are worse). The survey was e-mailed to about 4,000 NRCA contractor members registered on NRCA's Web site; 139 people responded.

Despite the U.S. jobless rate reaching its highest level in nine years, the economy is recovering, though slowly. (See "2004 construction outlook," for more information about the economy.)

Roofing contractors told NRCA and Professional Roofing they agree with the positive economic outlook. Contractors report, despite a continued concern about low cash flow, economic problems are being overshadowed by more monstrous issues—such as increased insurance premiums, heightened competition and a work force shortage.