Construction presses on amid new coronavirus crisis.

While construction companies soldier ahead in the COVID-19 crisis, a new industry study is sounding alarm bells about potentially rougher roads ahead.

An Associated General Contractors of America study conducted from March 23-25 and released March 27 found 39% of contractors reported that project owners have halted or canceled current jobs. The organization warned that the cancellations were likely to result in "massive" jobs losses in a statement issued just a month after it released data showing that 42 states had added construction jobs in February.

Another survey released April 3 seemed to bear out those fears, finding that 27% of responding firms had laid off workers. Other numbers jumped in just a week: 55% reported halting or canceling current jobs, while 59% reported delays or disruptions, up from 45% the previous week.

On April 10, the AGC released on online survey (.pdf) that found nearly 40% of construction companies had laid off workers.

"The abrupt plunge in economic activity is taking a swift and severe toll on construction," Ken Simonson, the association's chief economist, said in a news release. "The sudden drop in demand stands in sharp contrast to the strong employment levels this industry was experiencing just a few weeks ago."

Shortages of material and parts and equipment, including personal protective equipment, were reported by 35% of respondents in the April 3 survey, up from 23% the week before.

Mark Hood, president and CEO of Columbia-based Hood Construction, has experienced some of those issues firsthand.

"We have shut down some jobs," said Hood, who said his company is operating at around 80% of its normal capacity. "We do a lot of healthcare work, and the hospitals have asked us to stop our projects and leave, and we fully understand that and endorse that. It makes me feel better not to have my people inside the hospitals right now."

The March 27 survey also found supply chain interruptions, with 35% of firms reporting that suppliers had notified them or their subcontractors that some deliveries would be delayed or canceled. That increased to 38% in the April 3 survey.

"We're anticipating supply chain issues," Hood said. "We really don't know what those are yet. We suspect that's going to happen, because there are some manufacturing facilities that we're getting word that will shut down at some point in time. Some already have, some for just a couple of weeks."

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