Survey: Layoffs and Furloughs Rising Across Construction Industry

A look into the state of the construction industry as the coronavirus pandemic continues to alter daily life in the United States.

Ezra Bailey/Getty Images

With the coronavirus pandemic sweeping across the country, the Associated General Contractors of America has been surveying contractors and construction firms to track the disease’s effect on the construction industry. The results were predictable, and grim.

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According to the AGC’s most recent survey, the percentage of contractors reporting project delays or cancellations jumped from 39 percent to 60 percent in the last week. Twenty-seven percent of the 1,269 construction firms surveyed reported that they have laid off or furloughed job site workers because of halted projects.

While the most recent jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a relatively low number of jobs lost in the construction industry in March (29,000), the AGC believes their survey results more accurately represent the current situation.

“The March employment data does a better job reflecting market conditions before the pandemic than it does the widespread disruptions that have occurred during the past few weeks,” said Ken Simonson, chief economist for the AGC.

Simonson also noted the federal employment figures are based on payrolls from the middle of March, just before the pandemic began impacting daily life in the U.S.

“Our survey, meanwhile, indicates rapidly deteriorating labor and market conditions for the construction sector,” said Simonson.

Construction industry workers and officials are doing everything they can to stay productive during this time while maintaining health standards. On April 9th, hundreds of construction firms and more than 31,000 workers participated in a “safety stand down” run by the AGC.

“[These] safety stand downs were designed to make sure everyone working in construction knows, and follows, coronavirus safety measures,” said Stephen Sandherr, CEO of the AGC.

During the “stand down,” teams were broken into small groups to go over newly required safety practices, including:

  • Social distancing while working and on break
  • Frequent hand washing
  • Restrictions on tool sharing
  • The frequent disinfecting of high-touch areas

Despite the uncertainty in the world, workers whose jobs have been deemed essential must still do everything they can to balance productivity with personal and public health concerns.

“There is no margin for error when it comes to protecting workers and the public from the spread of the coronavirus,” said Sandherr.