The survey results reveal how quickly market conditions have changed compared to data showing a majority of metro areas added construction jobs through January. Association officials noted a relief bill the Senate is considering includes favorable tax and loan provisions. However, they said the bill also needs new infrastructure investments and improvements to the new paid sick and family medical leave measures.
In an online survey conducted by the association between March 17 and 19, 28 percent of the 909 respondents replied yes to the question, “Has any owner, government agency, or official directed you to halt or delay work on any projects that are either active or expected to start within the next 30 days?” Additionally, 22 percent of respondents said a supplier had notified them deliveries would be late or cancelled.
Contractors listed numerous types of delays and shortages. Nearly one out of five (18 percent) cited shortages of required government actions or personnel, for instance to issue permits or certificates of occupancy, conduct inspections or lettings, or make project awards. Sixteen percent noted a shortage of materials, parts, or equipment, including workers’ personal protective equipment such as respirators. Eleven percent reported a shortage of craft workers as individuals self-quarantine or stay home to care for others.
Underscoring how rapidly market conditions have changed, the association also released data on construction employment changes between January 2019 and January 2020 in 358 metro areas that showed how strong the market was two months ago. A majority—200 areas (56 percent)—added construction jobs, while 95 areas lost jobs, and 63 metros had no change. Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas, added the most construction jobs from January 2019 to January 2020 (12,400 jobs, five percent). The largest construction job decline occurred in Baton Rouge, Louisiana (-6500 jobs, -12 percent).
Association officials said the newly released Senate relief measure does too little to help the increasingly hard-hit construction industry. They noted the tax and loan provisions in the measure will help offset declining demand. However, they urged Senate leaders to include new funding for infrastructure projects and to protect the retirements and health care of construction workers in multi-employer plans. They also called for additional fixes to measures enacted earlier this week that force employers to front the cost of newly mandated paid family and sick leave measures.