General Contractor Survey: 27 Percent of Firms Report Layoffs Since Coronavirus Outbreak

Tech company Uber has delayed its construction at The Old Post Office in Chicago due to the coronavirus outbreak. The rideshare company still plans to move into the space in 2021. (Photo courtesy of LoopNet Inc.)

More than a quarter of general contracting firms in the U.S. have reported layoffs due to the nationwide coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, a recent study by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) found. The survey was conducted from March 30 to April 2 for AGC members.

Of the 1,296 respondents, 27 percent said they have had to lay off, furlough or fire employees. The survey was released April 3, the same day the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its March job report, in which it reported the U.S. economy lost 701,000 jobs. The BLS found that the construction industry lost 29,000 jobs from February to March.

AGC chief economist Ken Simonson notes that the BLS numbers are through March 12, when the COVID-19 outbreak was still in its relative infancy in the U.S. Indeed, AGC’s April 3 survey reflects the fast-spreading response to COVID-19, with 55 percent of firms reporting a delay or stoppage on worksites, a drastic jump from the survey released March 27, when 39 percent of firms reported a delay or stoppage. The survey released March 20 saw a 28 percent slowdown.

The most common source of delay or disruption, cited by 35 percent of respondents, was shortages of material, parts and equipment, including vital personal protective equipment for workers such as respirators. Twenty-eight percent reported shortages of craftworkers, while 16 percent said projects were delayed by shortages of government workers needed for inspections, permits and other actions.

“We are just beginning to appreciate the severity of the economic impacts of the pandemic for construction workers and their employers,” says Stephen Sandherr, CEO of AGC.

Additionally, Sandherr and AGC are urging members to host a Safety Stand Down on April 9. Sandherr wants industry leaders to pause construction to speak with their workers about the severity of COVID-19 and work together to keep workers and their families safe.

As of this writing, there were 368,449 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University (JHU).

— Alex Tostado

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