A new report from the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) does not paint a good picture of employment in the industry as a result of the growing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a survey of its members, as well as data from construction technology firm Procore, construction employment declined by 975,000 jobs in April. This loss from March to April constituted almost 13% of the industry’s total employment and was, by far, the worst one month decline ever, according to AGC.
Unemployment among workers with recent construction experience increased by 1.1 million from a year earlier, to 1,531,000, while the unemployment rate in construction jumped from 4.7% in April 2019 to 16.6% in April of this year.
According to AGC’s member survey, 30% of firms reported that projects had been halted by government order. However, 37% of owners said that they had voluntarily halted work out of fears of the pandemic. Another 31% of owners canceled projects because of a predicted reduction in demand. An additional 21% of owners canceled projects as a result of loss of private funding.
In total, 67% of construction firms responding to the survey reported having a project canceled or delayed since the start of the outbreak in early March, and these cancellations and delays have forced these firms to reduce staff. Almost a quarter (23%) of firms reported cutting staff in March, and 22% reported laying off staff in April. However, according to Ken Simonson, AGC’s chief economist, the job losses would have likely been even higher were it not for the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program loans, noting that 80% of respondents reported having applied for these loans and most have been approved.
“Today’s job report, our new survey results and Procore’s data, make it clear that the construction industry is not immune to the economic damage being inflicted on our country by the pandemic,” Simonson said. “Without new federal help, it is hard to see a scenario where the construction industry will be able to recover anytime soon.”
According to Simonson, job cuts have been occurring around the nation, with a 53% reduction in the Northeast, 45% in the West, 38 % in the Midwest and 29% in the South.