Survey Shows Contractor 'Pessimism' Toward Work Volume

January 11, 2021
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Construction employment increased by 51,000 jobs in December, with gains for nonresidential as well as residential contractors, according to the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials cautioned, however, that its latest survey shows widespread pessimism among contractors about the volume of work available in 2021, and they urged lawmakers to focus on measures designed to rebuild the economy and demand for construction.

Construction employment climbed to 7,413,000 in December, an increase of 0.7 percent compared to November. However, employment in the sector remains down by 226,000 or 3.0 percent since the most recent peak in February.

Residential construction has weathered the pandemic much better than nonresidential segments according to Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. Residential building and specialty trade contractors have now recouped all of the employment losses they incurred. 

Unemployment in construction nearly doubled in 2020. The industry’s unemployment rate in December was 9.6 percent, compared to 5.0 percent in December 2019. A total of 930,000 former construction workers were unemployed, up from 489,000 a year earlier. Both figures were the highest for December since 2013.

Association officials urged the new Congress and incoming Biden administration to enact measures to boost investments in all manner of public infrastructure. They added that Washington needs to backfill depleted state and local construction budgets.