Members’ Corner – The economist’s take: what will define 2024

Economics is about as unpredictable as the weather, but certain numbers and trends appear to set the framework for business operations in the technical sector in 2024.

With 2023 behind us and 2024 under way, it is time to look ahead to the numbers and economic trends that will define the new year for the technical business world. Maria Kjærsgård-Jensen, economist at TEKNIQ Arbejdsgiverne, has therefore looked into forecasts and economic estimates to give an idea of which factors will have an impact on business operations in 2024.

Unemployment is historically low

The lack of employees is a major challenge that will continue into the new year. Right now it is the first time in 15 years that unemployment has been so low for such a long time, figures from Statistics Denmark show, and that trend is not going to change for the time being.

We expect that it will continue to be low in 2024 and that there will still be a lack of employees. Unfortunately, it is not a problem that can be solved here and now, so unemployment will be a defining factor for next year as well says Maria Elisabeth Kjærsgård-Jensen, economist TEKNIQ Arbejdsgiverne. And the lack of qualified employees will affect both the speed of task resolution and labor costs.

Solid order backlog, but activity is falling

There is a shortage of employees, but there are plenty of tasks. A trend that, according to figures from Statistics Denmark, looks set to continue, at least at the beginning of 2024. In November, electrical installation companies estimated that they have enough orders for the next 9 months. For plumbing and plumber shops, the figure is 4.5 months and the metal industry also has orders for the next 4 months.

In general, it shows that all three industries will have plenty to look forward to in the new year. But we actually expect that activity will decrease this year and that companies will be less busy going forward says Maria Elisabeth Kjærsgård-Jensen.

Materials are getting cheaper

You can forecast the declining activity by looking at material prices. The latter have been falling for the past 12 months, which means that the delivery bottlenecks many experienced during the corona era are no longer there. This is positive, but, as mentioned, can also be a sign of a decline in activity.

On the one hand, the price drop can be seen as a sign of falling demand and thus also falling activity. But it also means that there is a shorter time from decision to execution, if, for instance, you have to optimize a building’s energy consumption, which can have a more positive effect on activity says Maria Elisabeth Kjærsgård-Jensen.