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More US construction projects have been cancelled than started in 2020, as COVID-19 economic impact continues

Tim Gibson

5 November 2020


A survey of contractors conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) has found that more construction projects were cancelled across the United States than started in the last twelve months.

As the US continues to be impacted by COVID-19, the economic fallout has been immensely damaging to the construction sector.

Three-quarters of respondents reported having a project postponed or cancelled entirely - up from 60 percent in the same survey in August, and 32 percent in June.

Meanwhile only 23 percent reported working on a new project, the same percentage as June.

The pandemic has also affected projects that are already in construction. 78 percent have reported major delays or disruptions - a 21 percent increase from June.

Above and Below: Three-quarters of US contractors have reported delayed or cancelled construction projects.

A shortage of construction materials and equipment has been listed as the main reason for delays for 42 percent of firms, while a shortage of craftworkers and subcontractors has been the reason for 35 percent.

Reassuringly, only seven percent of delays have been caused because of a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Contractors do not expect recovery to come anytime soon, 34 percent of respondents said they do not think their business will return to pre-pandemic levels for at least a year.

Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist, has warned that without federal relief current construction employment levels are under threat.

“The survey results make it clear that the months-long pandemic is undermining demand for projects, disrupting vital supply chains and clouding the industry’s outlook,” he said in a press release.

Above: Houston lost 24,400 construction jobs over the last year.

Construction employment fell by 65 percent across 234 metro areas in the US between September 2019 and September 2020.

Houston, Texas lost the most jobs at 24,400, followed by New York City, which lost 19,500 jobs.

Construction sectors around the world are finding unique ways to respond to the crisis, with some governments stepping in to fast-track major projects, while others are promising to “build back better”.

France and China have invested heavily in constructing new infrastructure, while Australia is moving ahead with the country’s tallest skyscraper.


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