MILWAUKEE, WIS. — With half a year and no immediate end to the COVID-19 pandemic, patterns are beginning to emerge for the construction industry thanks to ongoing surveys by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM).
AEM is measuring the impact of COVID-19 on the U.S. construction and utility sector workforce and announced early findings related to workforce furloughs, layoffs and the timeline and likelihood of bringing back the workforce. Respondents were predominantly contractors or material producers located in the United States, though all industry segments were included in the responses received by AEM.
Across all industries surveyed 74 per cent of companies did not furlough their workforce and another 13 per cent furloughed less than 10 per cent of their employees.
“These numbers are surprising, as we had all heard about the rising unemployment numbers and stagnant economy. We anticipated a much higher percentage of furloughed and laid off workforce,” an AEM release stated.
The primary business segments surveyed were heavy construction, government and municipalities, non-residential construction, utilities, and dealers, distributors and rental companies.
Heavy construction and utility industries fared well with 79 per cent of the companies surveyed furloughing none of their employees. Of those companies that did furlough employees, more than half are bringing less than 25 per cent back in the next 30 days and 28 per cent expect to bring almost all their furloughed employees back at some point.
“Within the next 90 days, half of respondents are expecting to return more than 75 per cent of furloughed workers to their jobs,” the release stated.
By industry, 96 per cent of companies in heavy construction and 93 per cent in utilities laid off less than 10 per cent of their workforce, and 80 per cent of companies with less than 100 employees didn’t lay anyone off. By comparison, 50 per cent of companies with less than 1,000 employees have not laid off employees.
“In general, contractors, large or small, have laid off less than 10 per cent of their workforce,” the release said.
More employees were furloughed than laid off in the heavy construction and utility industries, while the agriculture industry laid off more workforce than they furloughed, which also occurred in the non-residential construction and service industries.
“Of those who have laid off employees, more than half are not expecting to bring their employees back within 90 days. Of those laid off, a significant amount of positions will remain unfilled for the near future. We will continue to keep an eye on what happens moving forward, as companies and industries are having to do their work with less people,” the release said.
AEM stated the survey will be repeated on a regular basis to track potential trends and will be expanded to include Canadian publications and associations.