An estimated 30% of non-residential construction workers could lose their jobs without stimulus investments or other market improvements, says AGC.

An estimated two-thirds of the nation’s non-residential construction companies are planning to cut their payrolls, according to new employment and business forecast figures released by theAssociated General Contractors of America. The layoffs are forecast to result in a 30 percent decline in the number of people working on construction projects.  

The AGC believes that unless business climates change significantly ― and soon ― the construction sector will continue to experience “devastating job losses and crippling declines in business activity that will undermine efforts to end the recession, according to AGC CEOStephen Sandherr.

The forecast results are based on a representative survey conducted by the construction association late in 2008. The survey found “no relief in sight” for construction companies that already have been among the hardest hit by the economic slowdown. 

Many construction companies experienced significant slowdowns beginning late last year, resulting in a 10 percent decline in the number of construction workers since 2006, Sandherr noted.  

According to the forecast figures, the association’s member companies have seen or are planning for declining activity in every type of construction market: 
  • 92% of building contractors and 93% of road builders are expecting or experiencing declining activity.

  • More than 83% of utility contractors are bracing for declines, while 77% of water resource contractors are expecting a decline in business building levees or locks.
The AGC forecast did find, however, that planned investments in infrastructure projects as part of the stimulus package is likely to dramatically improve the employment and business outlook for the year. For example, 85 percent of non-residential construction companies would either cancel layoffs or add new employees if states embarked on stimulus-funded infrastructure projects.   

According to the forecast, construction companies would increase their payrolls by 25 percent if the stimulus included new infrastructure investments. And construction companies predict they would invest an average of $500,000 this year in new equipment if they received new work as part of the stimulus package.

“With a stimulus, construction companies can get more people to work and more money into the economy in a way that will immediately boost our economy,” Sandherr said. “Without a stimulus, construction companies will cut jobs, slash spending and continue to be among the hardest hit sectors within our economy.”  

The CEO noted that the association was working to find ways to improve the business environment for the construction community. He said builders across the country were urging Congress to include infrastructure investments in the stimulus, and that the association was calling for $2.2 billion to help renovate hundreds of federal facilities and for additional funds to repair crumbling schools.

He also noted that the association was working with a range of building, design and labor groups to call for new tax incentives to encourage conversion to energy efficient buildings, construction of renewable energy facilities, remediation of brown fields and construction of new airport and commercial projects. 

In the forecast announcement, Sandherr said the groups were proposing the creation of “economic crisis zones” that would, similar to natural disaster zones, provide tax exemptions and private activity bonding authority to finance construction projects in communities experiencing two consecutive months of double-digit unemployment.

“We are doing everything imaginable to ensure that our construction employment and business forecast does not become a reality,” Sandherr said.  

For survey results,click here.