Steel Markets

Coronavirus Expected to Hit Construction Employment in March

Written by Sandy Williams

Construction employment numbers increased in January, but the Associated General Contractors of America says the coronavirus is likely to significantly affect employment beginning in March.

“There is no doubt the coronavirus will have a significant impact on our economy, including the construction sector,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “That is why federal officials should act quickly to protect employers and employees, provide contractors with greater flexibility and offset the inevitable private-sector slowdown in construction demand.”

Contractors are beginning to report supply chain disruptions due to the virus that are delaying projects. A construction lending consultant told AGC, “We’re hearing delays from [general contractors]. Delayed delivery of drywall, glass, steel, HVAC and electrical equipment from China and curtainwall from Italy. Contractors are generally claiming force majeure, owner responsibility for losses or impact on schedule.”

Measures the federal government can take include “fashioning a more realistic Family Medical Leave proposal that won’t force unnecessary layoffs or bankruptcies as part of the coronavirus legislation, providing flexible schedules for contractors working on federally funded projects and boosting investments in infrastructure and other public works,” said AGC.

Mild weather helped boost construction employment totals in January, said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. Construction employment increased in 32 states in January compared to December and January 2019.

Texas added the most construction jobs between January 2019 and January 2020 (34,900 jobs, 4.6 percent), followed by Florida (21,500 jobs, 3.9 percent) and California (17,400 jobs, 2.0 percent). Utah added the highest percentage of construction jobs (7.5 percent, 8,000 jobs) over 12 months, followed by New Mexico (7.1 percent, 3,400 jobs) and North Dakota (6.5 percent, 1,800 jobs).

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia shed construction jobs between January 2019 and January 2020, while employment was flat in Kansas. Louisiana lost the most construction jobs (-15,200 jobs, -10.1 percent). Other states with substantial job losses include West Virginia (-5,100 jobs, -13.0 percent) and Illinois (-2,400 jobs, -1.1 percent). West Virginia lost the highest percentage of construction jobs over 12 months, followed by Louisiana and Vermont (-3.0 percent, -800 jobs).

New York added the most construction jobs between December and January (4,700 jobs, 1.2 percent), followed by Pennsylvania (4,400 jobs, 1.7 percent), Florida (3,600 jobs, 0.6 percent) and Maryland (3,500 jobs, 2.1 percent). New Hampshire added the highest percentage of construction jobs (3.5 percent, 1,000 jobs), followed by Delaware (2.7 percent, 600 jobs), Arkansas (2.5 percent, 1,300 jobs), West Virginia (2.4 percent, 800 jobs) and Maryland.

Construction employment decreased from December to January in 16 states and was unchanged in Rhode Island, South Carolina and D.C. Washington state lost the largest number of construction jobs (-3,500 jobs, -1.6 percent), followed by California (-2,400 jobs, -0.3 percent), Oregon (-1,400 jobs, -1.3 percent) and Alabama (-1,300 jobs, -1.4 percent). Washington also had the largest percentage decline for the month, followed by Alabama, Oregon and Hawaii (-1.3 percent, -500 jobs).

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