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Fri September 18 2020

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Lay-offs continue in US construction

21 Apr Latest analysis by Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) show construction employment declines in 20 states and Washington DC in March, with more losses set to be reported.

The new monthly job loss data foreshadows more lay-offs amid project cancellations and state cutbacks in road projects, said AGC. The association is calling for more small-business relief and immediate aid for highway funding.

“While construction employment declined in many parts of the country last month, far more states, local governments and project owners have halted construction in the five weeks since the government collected this data,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Our two latest surveys show a steep rise in cancellations of scheduled projects, which is leading to furloughs and terminations for both jobsite and office workers.”

The association released an analysis of new government data that showed construction employment decreased in 20 states and the District of Columbia (DC) from February to March, held steady in six states and increased in 24 states. Simonson said that the figures represented a rapid deterioration in a previously vibrant job market for construction. Over the 12 months ending in March, construction employment declined in only seven states and DC, held steady in two states, and increased in 41 states. He added that the data is based on employment as of 12th March, before most states or owners began curtailing construction.

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In the association’s latest online survey, conducted April 6-9, 53% of the 830 respondents reported that a project owner had ordered a halt or cancellation to a current or upcoming project. The share of respondents reporting cancellations jumped to 19% from 7% a week earlier, suggesting that the volume of work will shrink rapidly once current projects finish. Another impediment to construction - listed by 27% of respondents - comes from state and local officials who have ordered construction shutdowns.

The survey also found that 40% of respondents had furloughed or terminated workers by April 9, an increase from 31% just a week earlier. While 36% of firms reported furloughs or terminations of site workers, layoffs also affected office and other workers at 18% of firms.

Association officials warned that construction job losses were likely to accelerate in many states amid the coronavirus pandemic. They added that those job losses will get worse now that several states have cancelled or significantly delayed planned highway projects because the pandemic has resulted in dramatic declines in fuel tax revenues. They urged Congress and the Trump administration to provide funding to cover the lost revenue to protect existing jobs and make sure roads are repaired at a time when traffic is relatively light. They also urged Washington officials to invest more funds in the now-depleted Paycheck Protection Program and other forms of infrastructure.

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