Routines are starting to change… again. Children are going back to school, and some adults are going back to the office… at least for some of the time. Vaccination opportunities are widespread and we’re seeing signs of herd immunity in many communities. Restrictions are being lifted and people are beginning to think about traveling.
While many US workers felt isolated or “stuck” at home for months on end in 2020, individuals in the hospitality and construction industries were among those that continued showing up, day after day. They worked longer hours away from home, often on smaller budgets and with skeleton crews, while implementing COVID safety protocols that seemed to change by the day. A survey of construction professionals across North America (from April 6, 2020, through May 1, 2020) conducted by Viewpoint, a construction management software company, asked how contractors were adapting to the various state and local mandates due to the coronavirus pandemic. Answers included “additional PPE (N95 masks, nitrile gloves, face shields, etc.), sanitizing tools and trucks daily, contactless service calls, temperature/oxygen checks for crews, scheduling personnel to not overlap with other trades onsite.” Changes like those take time to learn and implement — it’s not a surprise that contractors reported greatly reduced (to nonexistent) profit margins.
Contractors had to plan for shortages in trade labor, anticipate the potential loss of project financing, and learn how to keep teams safe onsite while also keeping projects moving along efficiently. And In the hotels themselves, general managers were turning rooms, delivering fresh towels, and having hard conversations with staff they were forced to lay off/furlough.
There is currently a major workforce shortage in both construction and hospitality. Many who had built careers in these industries were surprised at how vulnerable their jobs were to layoffs and are reluctant to come back, opting for something more stable. Others are burned out after 14 months of hard work, hard conversations with employees, and the stress of not knowing when the “turnaround” would come. And others, predominantly women, left their jobs to care for children who were home while schools remained closed, many of whom are having difficulty getting back into the workforce, or realizing that staying home might be “do-able” for the first time.
Last April, the U.S. construction workforce saw layoffs of 975,000 workers—the steepest single-month drop in the sector since the late 1930s, according to veteran construction industry consultant Barry B. LePatner in Commercial Property Executive. For those who have survived, the boom is coming.
The good news is that for those seeking a job in the hospitality or construction industries, opportunities are abundant. From room service attendants and catering directors to skilled tradesmen and women and project estimators, nearly EVERYONE is hiring. And for those companies that weathered the storm well, many are now more streamlined and efficient.
Things are looking up in 2021. “The expectation remains that as vaccination proceeds, the U.S. economy is poised for a significant uptick in growth during the latter half of 2021,” said Basu, in Contractor Magazine. “That will set the stage for improving industry performance in 2022 and beyond, particularly if the new administration is able to push forward an aggressive infrastructure stimulus package.”
Here at Continental Contractors, we are looking forward to returning “normal” again (or something like it) and we believe we are on the way. And, incidentally, “We’re Hiring!” Continental Contractors is looking for a few great superintendents to join our team.