Sixty percent of construction firms report having at least one future project postponed or cancelled as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and a majority of firms are finding it difficult to find craft workers to hire, according to a workforce survey conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) and Autodesk. COVID-19 has prompted widespread delays and cancellations in the construction industry and forced many firms to lay off or furlough part of their workforce for cost saving reasons. The share of firms reporting cancelled projects to the AGC has nearly doubled since an AGC survey in June, when 32% of respondents reported cancellations.

“Few firms have survived unscathed from the pandemic amid widespread project delays and cancellations,” AGC chief economist Ken Simonson said in a prepared statement. “Ironically, even as the pandemic undermines demand for construction services, it is reinforcing conditions that have historically made it hard for many firms to find qualified craft workers to hire.”

Around a third of responding firms reported furloughing or terminating employees as a result of COVID-19. While most of those firms asked at least some laid-off workers to return to work, 44% of firms that recalled employees report that some have refused, citing unemployment benefits, virus concerns, or family responsibilities.

In addition to causing delays and forcing firms to reduce their workforce numbers, COVID-19 has also caused operations delays as firms have changed operation processes. Forty-four percent of firms surveyed by the AGC report it has taken longer to complete projects and 32% say it has cost more to complete ongoing projects because of the virus.

“The long-term effects of the current crisis have yet to play out, and firms that double down on innovation efforts, whether an increased focus on lean construction, workforce training, or technology that facilitates remote collaboration will be well poised for enduring resilience,” Allison Scott, director of construction thought leadership and customer marketing at Autodesk, said.

COVID-19 has also negatively affected firms’ confidence for future project demand. Only two in five firms report their volume of business has returned to year-ago levels or is expected to do so in the next six months, down from half of responding firms in AGC’s June survey. Contractor expectations of a recovery vary by region, with firms in the west and the south more optimistic about a return to normal business volume than firms in the northeast and midwest.

The AGC and Autodesk conducted the Workforce Survey between August 4 and August 26, generating responses from over 2,000 firms. Among responding firms, 56% reported working in building construction.