Pandemic Impacts – Part 2 – Delayed Jobs vs Canceled Jobs
Construction spending for February will be released tomorrow. It will not show any impacts yet from Coronavirus shutdowns. We will see the first indications of impact when March spending gets released on May 1st.
There will be two distinct and very different impacts reflected in the construction starts, spending and jobs numbers. 1st will be project delays. These are projects that were put on temporary hold for a month or several months. These have an immediate impact of reducing current activity. But at some point activity resumes. 2nd will be canceled projects due to companies that lost revenues and curtailed capital spending.
Consider an example: A delayed project that has 10 months remaining to completion gets put on hold for 3 months, Mar, Apr and May. If it resumes in June, the end date, instead of finishing in December 2020 as the original schedule indicated, gets pushed out to March 2021. Most of the spending still occurs in 2020 with only the final 3 months going into 2021. The months of Mar, Apr and May experience large reductions in spending, but 2020 experiences only a small reduction in spending for the final 3 months of closeout that get pushed in 2021. That adds a small amount to spending in 2021. Big reduction in Mar, Apr, May spending. Small reduction in 2020 spending. Small increase in 2021 spending.
Now consider the example of a canceled project: Companies that lost revenues due to shutdowns will quickly begin to reassess plans for capital expenditures. Some projects planned for a new start in 2020 or 2021 will be canceled. Companies will need to regain solid footing before reestablishing plans for expansion and growth. For every 10% drop in new construction starts, total construction spending drops by $125 billion, spread over a period of approximately 3 years. A 20% drop in new starts is a $250 billion drop in new spending. On average 20% of the lost spending occurs in the 1st year, 50% in the 2nd year and 30% in the 3rd year. Canceled projects have a dramatic impact on the construction industry, and the greatest impact (except for residential projects which have a shorter duration) is not felt in the first year, it’s felt in the second year.
Each loss of $1 billion of spending in any given year equates to a loss of 5000 jobs in that year. That’s 5000 job-years. A loss of $1 billion in spending in one month would be a loss of 60,000 jobs for a month.
A 10% drop in new construction starts, or $125 billion over three years, could be spread out in this manner: down $25 billion in year 1: down $62.5 billion in year 2 and down $37.5 billion in year 3. In the 1st year, we could see a loss of 125,000 jobs. But in the 2nd year, jobs are down over 300,000, so an additional 175,000 jobs are lost. In year 3 jobs are down only 187,000, less of a decline than in year 2, so we start to recover jobs. The average jobs loss is 200,000 jobs for 3 years.
Current spending is about $120 billion per month in the most active months, less in winter months. A delay of 10% of current workload, about $12 billion in a single month, would temporarily sideline 12 x 60000 = 720,000 jobs for one month, a massive disruption in a month. If the delay goes for two months, the average job loss for the year would show up as equivalent to 720,000 / 12 x 2 = 120,000 jobs for 1 year.
Jobs delayed due to work delayed would eventually be added back at a later point in time. Not that more jobs get added, but that the end-date of the project gets pushed out, so jobs delayed up front get pushed later, with some perhaps pushed into next year.