The COVID upswing is tearing up the construction industry

Not Out of the Woods Yet

The COVID upswing is tearing up the construction industry

Construction sites around the world are still being impacted by COVID. (EJ Yao/Unsplash)

In an unfortunate continuation of earlier stories about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, in a year when wildfires, racist incidents, and economic recession have all battered the construction industry, it seems the resurgence of COVID cases across the United States is continuing to disrupt job sites.

As Construction Dive first reported, a new survey from the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) paints a stark picture of the industry’s health as we roll into November.

In the AGC report, which surveyed respondents from across the country from October 7 through 19, the increase in delays, material shortages, furloughs, and work postponements or cancelations was laid bare.

Of the 1,077 firms polled, a whopping 78 percent indicated they were experiencing atypical project delays, with a materials shortage the number one cause (at 42 percent), followed by a craftsperson shortage (at 35 percent). Of the 1,025 polled, 54 percent also indicated that suppliers told them their shipments would be delayed or canceled.

Additionally, 30 percent of the 1,105 polled indicated that they had furloughed or terminated employees between March 1 and October 1, while only 27 percent answered that they had added staff. Of the 994 polled, an even 75 percent answered that an owner or developer had postponed or canceled a project during that period, and 77 percent admitted that since July 1, they hadn’t begun any new projects. (For context, 31 percent of an 896 respondents pool answered that they were a union shop, 50 percent answered that they were an open shop, and the rest fell somewhere in between.)

In a virtual press conference held yesterday, October 28, Construction Dive reports that the AGC’s chief economist Ken Simonson painted a stark picture of the industry’s position.

“During the past year, massive construction job losses occurred in major metros, including Houston,” which lost 24,400 jobs, or 10 percent, Simonson reportedly said. “New York City, Minneapolis, Philadelphia suburbs, Chicago, Oakland, Denver, Boston, and California’s Inland Empire also had very large construction employment losses. Worse, the majority of firms report they plan to cut jobs or at least keep employment level over the next year.”

So, for the time being, the outlook for construction isn’t looking rosy—alongside the recession induced by the pandemic, even in places where the virus’s spread is under control, mitigating contagion is also hampering productivity.