Pamplin Media Group – Oregon construction contractors gloomy as 2020 grinds on

Project cancellations on the rise in contracting, while residential building flourishes


COURTESY: REED'S CROSSING - Residential construction work hold strong, like this at Reed's Crossing in Hillsboro, but many commercial projects are being canceled during the pandemic.

A recent survey by the Association of General Contractors found growing pessimism among contractors amid rising project cancellations.

In terms of business volume returning to a normal level relative to a year ago, 38% of respondents said they expect it will take more than six months.

In June that number was 30%.

An AGC spokesperson said the likely reason for the gloomier view is that 60% of respondents report a scheduled project has been postponed or canceled, up from 32% in June.

As the COVID-19 pandemic and its accompanying recession drag on, companies both expect to lay off staff and then hire them back.

Twenty three percent of firms said they expect to furlough employees temporarily and/or terminate employees to reduce headcount in the next 12 months, but 40% expect to recall employees and/or add new employees.COURTESY: REED'S CROSSING - Residential construction work hold strong, like this at Reed's Crossing in Hillsboro, but many commercial projects are being canceled during the pandemic.

In the 2019 Workforce Survey, 72% of firms expected to add employees.

Despite unemployment running as high as 16% in 2020, 52% of respondents reported difficulty filling some or all hourly craft positions. Salaried positions were also proving hard to fill, with 28% of firms complaining.

Forty-one percent of firms report a decrease in headcount over the past 12 months, 27% an increase, and 46% no change.

While construction employment increased in August by 16,000, gains were limited to residential and select nonresidential categories. There was a net decrease of 11,000 in nonresidential construction employment, including nonresidential building, specialty trades, and heavy and civil engineering construction.

Between July 2019 and July 2020, New York City lost the most construction jobs (-26,500, -16%), while Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, Md. added the most construction jobs over the year (4,800, 6%). Walla Walla, Washington, had the largest percentage gain (25%, 300).

Construction spending inched up 0.1% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1.365 trillion in July 2020 after four months of declines, the Census Bureau reported. The July total was down 0.1% from July 2019.

Joseph Gallivan
Reporter, The Business Tribune
971-204-7874
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