Construction jobs reached multi-year lows in many states in April, according to the latest analysis of government data by the Associated General Contractors of America. Construction employment declined in every state except South Dakota, for a loss of 975,000 jobs last month. Employment in the sector was down 13 percent from March to April with New York plummeting 40.8 percent and Vermont 46.3 percent. South Dakota saw an increase of 2 percent or 500 jobs.
“Today’s state employment report shows how widespread—and deep—the job losses have been among construction workers, despite a smattering of new or accelerated projects,” said AGC Chief Economist Ken Simonson. “Meanwhile, our latest survey indicates that the paycheck loan program has enabled some companies to retain or add workers for now, but that relief will expire soon if not extended.”
More than two thirds (69 percent) of the 742 firms responding to an AGC survey reported having a project canceled or delayed since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in early March.
Simonson noted that project cancellations have forced 30 percent of firms to furlough or terminate employees. But an equal share has added workers, including some firms that laid off employees earlier. “The Paycheck Protection Program, which provides no-cost loans for firms to cover payroll expenses for a short time, appears to have achieved the goal of helping contractors retain or add workers for now,” he added.
Stephen Sandherr, AGC’s chief executive officer, urged Congress to extend the program, pass infrastructure funding and provide liability protection from coronavirus lawsuits for employers that have followed safety guidelines.
AGC cautioned against extending unemployment supplements. The association survey found 43 percent of firms reported that workers declined to report back to work due to the supplemental unemployment benefits.
“Washington’s temporary relief measures appear to have helped the construction industry avoid even more layoffs,” said Sandherr. “Now Congress and the administration need to focus on measures that will revive the economy, rebuild demand for construction and restore American jobs.”
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