Summer is just around the corner, and things are beginning to look up in the U.S. More than 45% of American adults are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The national public health agency also recently updated its guidelines, saying fully vaccinated people can stop wearing face masks and social distancing in most settings as the country moves toward a full reopening. Hallelujah!

Things are also looking up for plumbing and HVAC contractors, according to the latest survey results from PHCC — National Association’s Contractor Sentiment Survey. Per the survey, 84% of respondents (of which 92% were plumbing contractors and 55% were HVACR contractors) rank the continuing impact of COVID-19 on their businesses as having either a low or medium impact compared to the 55% in spring 2020, when PHCC first began tracking trends during the pandemic. Additionally, the number of contractors ranking impact as medium-high to high has dropped from 43% last spring to 9%. 

In the survey, contractors identified their top challenges as addressing employee health and safety concerns; not operating with full staff; increased operating costs due to increased needs for PPE and jobsite sanitation; addressing customer health and safety concerns; and modifying operations and jobsites to follow new OSHA and CDC guidelines. Additional challenges included supply chain slow-downs; rapid and unpredictable price increases; and increased employee call offs due to child care issues, stress and anxiety, or not feeling well.

“The majority of respondents indicate that supply chain disruptions are due to delays in shipping materials, cost increases, shortage of construction materials, equipment, or parts and manufacturer training disruptions and lack of experienced new employees,” said Michael Copp, executive vice president PHCC — National Association, during the Plumbing Industry Leadership Coalition meeting last month. “Most respondents indicated that COVID has impacted their workforce most because of employee absenteeism, increased anxiety, difficulty finding technicians and reluctance for workers to take mandates seriously when they are working in spaces together.”

Contractors did note that many manufacturers and suppliers have been helpful by offering creative alternatives to products currently unavailable. Copp told PILC members that suppliers were either very responsive to contractor members, or not at all, depending on where the contractor was located. 

Though there are positive indicators of recovery in the overall construction market, PHCC contractors still have concerns for their businesses over the next six months, chief among them was the increased cost of doing business (safety, equipment, materials and insurance) with 72% of respondents listing that. Other concerns included continued challenges finding qualified employees (71%); increased regulations (48%); potential recession (45%); continued need for social distancing (36%); increased risk with safety, health and lawsuits (35%); and more.  

Though nobody has a crystal ball to predict what the future will bring, organizations such as PHCC are there to help PHVAC contractors prepare for the unexpected and succeed through good times and bad. Consider getting involved with your local contractor organizations — you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.