On Feb. 4, ABC submitted a letter for the record to the U.S. House Committee on Small Business for its hearing, “State of the Small Business Economy in the Era of COVID-19,” to provide insight on the state of small construction businesses and the construction industry as a whole, nearly a year into the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the letter, ABC highlighted construction as a bright spot in the January jobs report, while providing analysis on the construction job market in December and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“During the last eight months, the construction industry has added an impressive 857,000 jobs, recovering 79.1% of the jobs lost during the earlier stages of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said ABC. “However, the construction unemployment rate rose to 9.6% in December 2020 from 7.3% in November 2020, and is up 4.6% from the same time last year. In December 2020, unemployment across all industries remained unchanged at 6.7%.”
The letter also underscored the importance of ABC’s Construction Backlog Indicator and Construction Confidence Index, which showed contractor optimism improved as the backlog increased modestly in December.
However, ABC noted that for smaller construction businesses—classified as those with annual income of less than $30 million—backlog fell from 7.4 months in November 2020 to 6.8 months in December 2020. With an already smaller backlog among all company sizes measured, smaller construction businesses saw the sharpest decline of 0.6 months in December.
Although small businesses in the construction industry have benefitted because the industry has been deemed essential and most jobsites have remained open, this data indicates that small construction businesses need additional help to grapple with the lingering effects of the pandemic. ABC highlighted some of the programs created by Congress that have helped small businesses in the industry, including the Paycheck Protection Program. According to the most recent SBA data, small businesses in the construction industry have accounted for 13.39% of all PPP loans, totaling more than $65 billion—the third largest total of any industry sector.
In addition, ABC asked Congress to consider investing in America’s infrastructure and ensure that small construction businesses are not excluded from the competitive bidding process for federal infrastructure projects by mandating project labor agreements. ABC also asked Congress to steer away from policies such as the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which would limit the opportunities for small businesses to compete and recover from the pandemic.
Updated analysis and economic indicators can be accessed at abc.org.