US homebuilder sentiment in April dipped to its lowest level in over seven years, the steepest decline in the 30-year history of the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index.
It’s easy to see why confidence has bottomed out. Although construction is still considered “essential work” in all but six states, at least 3,180 construction projects have been canceled or delayed as of April 15th according to ConstructConnect.
US housing starts dropped 23.3% in March, according to the Commerce Department, from 1.56 million units to 1.2 million. Construction of single -family houses fell 17.5% and multi-family starts were off 32.1% from a month ago. The drop was the worst since 1984.
The construction market lost 29,000 jobs in March, and unemployment in construction shot up to 6.9%. This doesn’t, however, make up for the shortfall of skilled laborers. Construction companies still report they are 25% low on filling those positions.
Contractors are saying that even in areas where construction is still allowed, personal protective equipment is hard to come by. 39% of contractors are reporting that a shortage of PPE is delaying projects or causing a reduction of workers on job sites.