Construction employment declined in 20 states and Washington, D.C., illustrating the impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the industry. The findings are in line with a recent survey from the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), which found that nearly 40% of firms have been forced to lay off employees.

“While construction employment declined in many parts of the country last month, far more states, local governments and project owners have halted construction in the five weeks since the government collected this data,” AGC chief economist Ken Simonson said. “Our two latest surveys show a steep rise in cancellations of scheduled projects, which is leading to furloughs and terminations for both jobsite and office workers.”

An AGC analysis of government data indicates that construction employment increased in only 25 states during March, a significant departure from recent government data. On a year-over-year basis, construction employment increased in 41 states. However, the government data is based on reports as of March 12, likely before many owners were forced to begin laying off employees.

The declines in state construction employment are also likely related to construction curtailment. The AGC's most recent survey indicates 53% of the 830 respondents had been ordered to halt or cancel current or upcoming projects. The share of respondents reporting cancellation stood at nearly 20%, suggesting the volume of work for construction firms may shrink rapidly once current projects finish.

AGC officials suggest construction job losses are likely to accelerate in many states amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Job losses likely will get worse in several states that have canceled or delayed planned projects because of the pandemic.