AEM Survey Finds Few COVID-19 Layoffs in Construction

'Voice of customer' survey asked questions related to workforce furloughs and layoffs and bringing back the workforce.

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The Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) Construction Sector team continues to look at how it can help provide clarity or support to its members, as well as build on relationships with sister associations and industry publications through its CONEXPO-CON/AGG trade show in order to be the consolidated voice of the customer for equipment end users. As part of this, it is working with its partners to pull together industry-wide data through surveys that will provide industry insights and may help determine the speed of industry recovery as companies look to bring back furloughed and laid off workforce. 

An initial survey asked questions related to workforce furloughs and layoffs, outlook and timeline for bringing back workforce, and potential ways companies plan to reestablish their competitive advantage. Respondents included all industry segments and were predominantly contractors or material producers in the U.S.

Across all industries surveyed:

  • 74% of companies furloughed none of their workforce, while another 13% furloughed less than 10%
  • 60% of companies laid off none of their workforce, and another 23% laid off less than 10%

These numbers were surprising given the rising unemployment numbers and stagnant economy. The AEM construction sector team anticipated a much higher percentage of furloughed and laid off workforce.

Questions were also asked specific to both furloughed and laid off workforce as a means to help determine the outlook across industries. The primary business segments were heavy construction, government/municipality, non-residential construction, dealers/distributor/rental, and utility.

By industry, the heavy construction and utility industries remain somewhat positive with 79% of companies furloughing none of their workforce. Of those that have furloughed employees, more than half are bringing less than 25% back within the next 30 days, while 28% are expecting to bring almost all their furloughed workforce back at some point in time. Within the next 90 days, half of respondents are expecting to return more than 75% of furloughed workers to their jobs.

By industry:

  • 96% of companies in heavy construction and 93% in utility laid off less than 10% of their workforce, a much higher percentage than anticipated
  • 80% of companies with less than 100 employees did not lay off anyone, compared to 50% of companies with less than 1,000 employees

In general, contractors, large or small, have laid off less than 10% of their workforce.

Comparing furloughed workforce to laid-off workforce, more employees were furloughed than laid off in the heavy construction and utility industries, while the non-residential construction and service industries laid off more workforce than they furloughed.

Of those that have laid off employees, more than half are not expecting to bring those workers back within 90 days. A significant amount of positions will remain unfilled for the near future, meaning companies and industries will have to do their work with less people.

The survey will be repeated on a recurring basis in order to develop potential trends and gain additional insights.

Original article written by Megan Tanel, senior vice president of Construction and Utility Sector, Association of Equipment Manufacturers, and edited for content by Becky Schultz.