pandemic

U.S. Construction Adds 11,000 Jobs in July, Nonresidential Still Far Below Pre-Pandemic Levels

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By KERRY SMITH, EDITOR, ST. LOUIS CONSTRUCTION NEWS AND REVIEW MAGAZINE

Construction employment – both nonresidential and residential – totaled 7.42 million as of July 31, an increase of 1.5 percent over June, but the lion’s share of that gain came from hiring in the residential sector.

AGC of America Chief Economist Ken Simonson said soaring materials costs, long or uncertain delivery times and hesitancy by nonresidential project owners to commit to construction are the factors contributing to a still-stalled pace of commercial construction across the U.S.

The numbers hail from an August 6 government data analysis by the AGC.

“Recovery has been especially slow in infrastructure construction,” Simonson said.

Construction employment in July represented a gain of 11,000 jobs following three months of job losses, according to Simonson, however the rebound was limited to residential and specialty trade contractors. Nonresidential building and infrastructure construction firms continued to lose workers.

Residential building contractors including single-family homebuilders added 8,399 employees in July, while employment was unchanged among residential specialty trade contractors. Simonson said the two residential segments have added a total of 58,500 employees, or 2.0 percent, to their workforce nationwide since February 2020.

In contrast, nonresidential building contractors shed 2,500 employees in July. Employment declined by 2,100 among heavy and civil engineering construction firms, the segment most connected with building and rehabbing infrastructure. Nonresidential specialty trade contractors added 7,500 employees last month.

Following the huge loss of jobs between February and April 2020 at the start of the pandemic, infrastructure-centric contractors have added back only 37 percent of lost jobs. According to the AGC analysis, nonresidential building and specialty trade contractors have each regained about 60 percent of lost workers, while the total nonfarm payroll economy has recouped 75 percent of workers.

“There are an unprecedented number of construction material price increases,” said Simonson. “The problems of these extreme price increases and long lead times for production or delivery to project sites mean fewer construction workers are being employed. Some owners are delaying project starts, adding to the drag on industry employment.”

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Autodesk Study Finds Commercial Bidding Activity Surpassing Pre-Pandemic Levels

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By KERRY SMITH, EDITOR, ST. LOUIS CONSTRUCTION NEWS AND REVIEW

A Spring 2021 study by Autodesk, Inc. sheds light on the construction industry’s health one year after the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Autodesk’s “Construction Outlook 2021: Risks & Opportunities” study tracks five industry trends – growth, health and construction safety, labor, supply chain and design – and analyzes how each of these has been affected as the compounding effects of the pandemic and resulting economic instability and uncertainty manifest.

According to aggregated product data from the company’s preconstruction platform, BuildingConnected, in January 2021 real-time bidding activity surpassed pre-pandemic levels and reached an all-time high.

Construction Analytics Economist Ed Zarenski said increased levels of bidding activity, paired with a consistent level of construction project volume, signals the industry is getting back to work and breaking ground at an energetic pace.

“While it’s not an indication that we’re entirely out of the woods, the real-time bidding data from BuildingConnected suggests that delayed or rescheduled projects may be coming back online,” said Zarenski.

Also according to the study, while bidding activity was initially on the rise at the beginning of 2020, it dropped roughly 34 percent in the 60 days following the first U.S. stay-at-home orders in mid-March. Bidding activity slowly began to recover between March and October 2020, hitting a high for 2020 in November.

Compared to a three-month pre-pandemic average, total bidding activity was up 15 percent in November and 36 percent in January 2021. The rate of new projects being added to the Autodesk platform remained constant, indicating increased bidding activity may be related to project restarts, not new projects.

“In the early days of the pandemic, the construction industry turned to technology to readjust,” said Jim Lynch, senior vice president and general manager of Autodesk Construction Solutions. “Now that the industry looks to be picking up and teams are headed back to the jobsite, adopting technology, digitizing workflows and upskilling employees is more important than ever to handle the increased workload.”

To download the full report, see https://construction.autodesk.com/resources/2021-autodesk-construction-outlook/.

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