Survey Shows COVID-19 Economic Concerns Rising

April 20, 2020

For the second time since the crisis began, ASCE members participated in the “COVID-19 Impact and Implementation Survey,” compiled by Industry Insights to assess and understand the business effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The latest survey results show an economy coming to grips with the challenges this crisis is presenting.

Eighty-one percent of respondents reported experiencing a negative financial impact, compared with 52 percent in the March 18 survey.

Likewise, more respondents, particularly those businesses that employ fewer than 20 people, expressed greater levels of concern regarding their long-term viability.

“I’m not really surprised, as management and owners start understanding what are the outcomes for their companies the longer the shutdown goes on,” said Gerald Zadikoff, P.E., F.ASCE, CEO of G.M. Selby Inc. Consulting and Design Engineers in Miami and member of ASCE’s Industry Leaders Council.

“And if it goes on too long, the response may be vastly different from what it was on April 9. The percent of mild concerns will flip to a lower percent, and major concerns will be the dominant percentage.”

The supply chain has become more of a problem in recent weeks as well. Sixty percent of respondents to the April 9 survey reported coronavirus-related delays in receiving materials or products from suppliers; only 32 percent had experienced such delays as of March 18.

“We are all starting to see delays in deliveries of equipment or other key deliverables because of skeleton staffing at many companies,” Zadikoff said.

“I am seeing delays in materials required to get to our job sites, as well as deliverables from other professionals due to their layoffs or lack of coordination since professionals are not all in-house working together. They are remotely working out of their homes and it takes a lot more time to coordinate a complex project.”

Similarly, the survey results breaking out only the responses from the participating 240 ASCE members indicate the effects taking hold of the civil engineering industry.

Sixty-four percent of organizations reported cancellations or delays of contracts; 52 percent reported cash-flow challenges; and 35 percent reported hiring freezes.

A silver lining, if it could be called that, can be found in the ASCE-only data showing fewer organizations having furloughed or terminated employees since March compared to the overall economy survey (22 percent compared with 33 percent). The data shows that the typical civil engineering organization has reduced its workforce by 10 percent since March 1, as compared with the overall survey’s 25 percent.

The good news in the overall survey data is the willingness of organizations to resume their normal schedule of office work, traveling and large-group events. Nearly three-quarters of companies plan to return their employees to the office once stay-at-home orders are lifted.  Sixty-four percent of organizations, meanwhile, reported that they intend to rehire furloughed or laid-off employees.

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