Despite challenges to the construction employment market in Florida caused by COVID-19, some areas of the state have experienced robust employment growth in the past 12 months, while others have struggled. Overall, the number of employees in the industry declined by just 1 percent in the year ending September 2020, or 7,800 workers out of a total workforce of more than 560,000.
Port St. Lucie gained 1,300 workers, for an 11 percent growth, making it the fifth strongest community in the nation, according to government data compiled by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGCA). Employment increased by 10 percent in Panama City.
Meanwhile, the much larger Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach-Deerfield Beach employment numbers declined by 12 percent, while and Jacksonville markets declined by 4 percent . Miami gained 100 workers — an insignificant number with a workforce of 54,000.
Here is the data by community including the employment total for Sept. 2019, the total for Sept. 2020, the difference in number and percentage, and the national ranking.
- Florida Statewide Construction 569,100 561,300 -7,800 -1%
- Statewide Mining, Logging, and Construction 574,800 566,900 -7,900 -1%
- Cape Coral-Fort Myers Mining, Logging, and Construction 32,700 33,300 600 2% 53
- Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin Mining, Logging, and Construction 6,900 7,100 200 3% 41
- Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach Mining, Logging, and Construction 14,100 14,500 400 3% 41
- Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach-Deerfield Beach Div.Construction 49,900 44,000 -5,900 -12% 294
- Gainesville Mining, Logging, and Construction 6,000 6,100 100 2% 53
- Jacksonville Construction 46,600 44,700 -1,900 -4% 170
- Lakeland-Winter Haven Mining, Logging, and Construction 14,700 15,600 900 6% 23
- Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall Div. Construction 54,100 54,200 100 0% 84
- Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island Mining, Logging, and Construction 17,600 18,400 800 5% 32
- North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton Mining, Logging, and Construction 26,300 26,100 -200 -1% 126
- Ocala Mining, Logging, and Construction 8,500 9,200 700 8% 14
- Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford Construction 87,100 83,600 -3,500 -4% 170
- Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville Mining, Logging, and Construction 15,800 16,300 500 3% 41
- Panama City Mining, Logging, and Construction 6,900 7,600 700 10% 9
- Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent Mining, Logging, and Construction 12,200 12,400 200 2% 53
- Port St. Lucie Mining, Logging, and Construction 12,000 13,300 1,300 11% 5
- Punta Gorda Mining, Logging, and Construction 4,300 4,300 0 0% 87
- Sebastian-Vero Beach Mining, Logging, and Construction 4,500 4,500 0 0% 87
- Tallahassee Mining, Logging, and Construction 9,000 9,200 200 2% 53
- Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater Construction 81,900 80,300 -1,600 -2% 133
- West Palm Beach-Boca Raton-Delray Beach Div. Construction 39,200 40,000 800 2% 53
In a statement, AGCA said construction firms are experiencing widespread project deferrals and cancellations, along with disruptions to ongoing work and few new project awards, as the economic damage from the pandemic drags down industry employment in metro areas across the nation. Association officials urged Congress to pass new coronavirus relief measures to head off further job losses.
“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,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Without new federal relief measures, these challenges pose a significant threat to current construction employment levels.”
Simonson noted that three-quarters of survey respondents report having a scheduled project postponed or canceled. He added that is up from the 60 percent of contractors who reported a canceled project in our August survey and 32 percent who did so in June. Meanwhile, only 23 percent of contractors report working on new or expanded construction projects as a result of the pandemic, about the same percentage as in June.
The coronavirus is also disrupting projects that are still underway, Simonson noted. Seventy-eight percent of respondents report they are currently experiencing project delays or disruptions, up from 57 percent in June. In particular, 42 percent of firms are experiencing disruptions due to a shortage of construction materials, equipment or parts. In addition, 35 percent are experiencing disruptions because of a shortage of craftworkers and/or subcontractors. In one bit of good news, however, only 7 percent of firms are experiencing disruptions because of a shortage of personal protective equipment.
Shrinking demand and disrupted operations are shaking many contractors’ faith in the future, the survey showed. Thirty-four percent of respondents report they do not expect their firm’s volume of business will return to pre-pandemic levels for at least a year.
Delays, disruptions and uncertainty threaten to undermine employment levels in the construction sector. In fact, 30 percent of firms report they have already furloughed or terminated employees because of the coronavirus.
That is likely why construction employment fell during the past year in most metro areas, Simonson added. Construction employment fell in 234, or 65 percent, of 358 metro areas between September 2019 and September 2020. Construction employment was stagnant in 38 other metro areas, meanwhile, and only 86 metro areas added construction jobs during the past year.
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas lost the most construction jobs over those 12 months (-24,400 jobs, -10 percent), followed by New York City (-19,500 jobs, -12 percent). Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton, Mass. had the largest percentage decline (-36 percent, -2,000 jobs), followed by Altoona, Pa. (-32 percent, -1,000 jobs) and Johnstown, Pa. (-32 percent, -900 jobs).
Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas added the most construction jobs from September 2019 to September 2020 (5,100 jobs, 3 percent), followed by Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, Md. (4,700 jobs, 6 percent). Walla Walla, Wash. had the highest percentage increase (25 percent, 300 jobs), followed by Fond du Lac, Wisc. (15 percent, 500 jobs).
Simonson added that a majority of firms report they plan to cut jobs or abstain from adding new employees during the coming year. Twenty percent expect their headcount will shrink while 42 percent report they do not plan to add to the size of their headcount during the next twelve months.
Most firms participating in the survey, 78 percent, cited a preference for new federal relief measures to mitigate against the impacts of the coronavirus. Among the measures firms are hoping Washington officials will enact are new federal investments in infrastructure, liability reforms that protect responsible firms from frivolous coronavirus suits and a new highway and transportation bill.
As a result, association officials urged Congressional leaders to recall legislators right after the election to pass much-needed new coronavirus relief measures. In particular, the construction officials called on Congress to new infrastructure investments, liability reforms and an additional round of Paycheck Protection Program loans.
“As our survey shows, the pandemic and efforts to mitigate its spread have deeply wounded the economy, depressing demand for many types of commercial construction projects,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Congress can end the downward economic slide and help create needed new construction jobs by passing measures to boost demand and protect honest employers.”