Nearly One Million Construction Workers Lose Jobs in April as Demand Stabilizes

Construction employment declined by 975,000 jobs in April, according to the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America. Data from construction technology firm Procore shows how demand has changed across the U.S. since the COVID-19 pandemic began in the U.S. in March.

In a webinar about the Procore data and a recent AGC survey, Ken Simonson, AGC’s chief economist, stated that unemployment among workers with recent construction experience soared by 1.1 million from a year earlier, to 1,531,000, while the unemployment rate in construction jumped from 4.7% in April 2019 to 16.6%.

Construction workers logged 14 million hours in the week of March 1. Worker hours dipped to a low of 11.5 million after the fourth wave of shelter-in-place orders in the week of April 5 but have since leveled off. Construction workers logged 12.2 million hours in the week of April 26, a 13% decrease from the pre-COVID-19 high of 14 million.

States that experienced the largest drop off in construction worker hours from the week of March 1 to the week of April 27 were Michigan (-69%), Vermont (-68%), New York (-55%) and Massachusetts (-48%). California, which issued the first shelter-in-place order, saw a decrease of 18%. According to Procore data, many states saw the larger reduction in early April.

Some states experienced a positive change in worker hours from the week of March 1 to the week of April 27, including Montana (+19%), Tennessee (+16%) and Idaho (+10%).

Smallest companies experienced the largest decline in worker hours, decreasing 19% from the week of March 1 to the week of April 26. Large companies saw a 13% decrease in that same period and medium companies saw a 12% decrease.

While size impacted which companies were harder hit by the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on worker hours, there was less of a divide between non-infrastructure and infrastructure. Both segments have experienced a 13% drop in worker hours from the week of March 1 to the week of April 26. However, infrastructure’s lowest point, a decrease in worker hours of 18% from the week of March 1 to the week of April 5, was lower than that of non-infrastructure, which hit a low of a 16% decrease in that same period.

Worker hours for healthcare projects were less impacted than energy or transportation. Worker hours for healthcare projects actually increased approximately 5% from the week of March 1 to the week of April 12 before going negative again in the week of April 26.

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