TRD Insights: Construction industry bleeds almost 1M jobs in April

A survey from the Associated General Contractors of America found that more than half of contractors furloughed or terminated employees since March

TRD New York /
May.May 15, 2020 08:00 AM
The U.S. construction industry hemorrhaged nearly a million jobs in April, according to a survey from the Associated General Contractors of America and data from construction technology firm Procore. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)

The U.S. construction industry hemorrhaged nearly a million jobs in April, according to a survey from the Associated General Contractors of America and data from construction technology firm Procore. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)

The U.S. construction industry hemorrhaged nearly a million jobs in April, according to a survey from the Associated General Contractors of America and data from construction technology firm Procore.

The AGC survey found that more than half of contractors have furloughed or terminated employees since March. The chief reason was owners or developers halting underway projects. Sixty-three percent of contractors stopped work at projects that were underway in April or May.

Those who halted projects cited reasons that sometimes overlapped. The most common factor, cited by 37 percent, was an owner’s concern about Covid-19 on the job site. About 31 percent said the owner expected less demand for what they were building because of the pandemic, and 30 percent of contractors cited the need to comply with government orders to halt nonessential construction. More than 1 in 5 said private funders got cold feet.

The reasons for work stoppages varied considerably by geography, however.

In the Northeast, where states enacted sweeping stay-at-home orders and banned nonessential work, 64 percent of contractors said projects were halted to comply with state or local orders. In the South, only 14 percent did. There, most construction sites that closed did so at the will of owners and developers.

The survey also found that the small business Paycheck Protection Program offered through the federal CARES Act has helped general contractors significantly. Fifty-five percent of contractors received and used funds from the forgivable-loan program.

Contractors also think Washington could do more to protect them from the pandemic’s economic fallout. More than 60 percent of contractors want a “safe harbor” rule that provides firms with protection from tort or employment liability for failing to prevent a Covid-19 infection.


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