Early Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the United States Construction Industry

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Feb 6;18(4):1559. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18041559.


The COVID-19 pandemic has been the largest global health crisis in decades. Apart from the unprecedented number of deaths and hospitalizations, the pandemic has resulted in economic slowdowns, widespread business disruptions, and significant hardships. This study focused on investigating the early impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the U.S. construction industry since the declaration of the national emergency on 13 March 2020. The study objectives were achieved through 34 telephone interviews with project managers, engineers, designers, and superintendents that represented different states and distinct industry sectors in the United States (U.S.). The interviewees offered information on their experience with the pandemic, including the general and adverse effects experienced, new opportunities created, and risk management efforts being undertaken. The reported adverse effects included significant delays on projects, inability to secure materials on time, reduction in productivity rates, material price escalations, and others. The new opportunities that were created included projects involving the fast-track construction of medical facilities, construction of residential buildings, transportation-related work, and opportunities to recruit skilled workers. The risk management measures that were widely adopted included measures to enhance safety and reduce other project risks. The safety measures adopted included requiring employees to wear cloth face masks, adoption of social distancing protocols, staggering of construction operations, offering COVID-19-related training, administering temperature checks prior to entry into the workplace, and others. Measures to manage other project risks included the formation of a task force team to review the evolving pandemic and offer recommendations, advocating that construction businesses be deemed essential to combat delays and taking advantage of government relief programs. The study findings will be useful to industry stakeholders interested in understanding the early impacts of the pandemic on the construction industry. Industry stakeholders may also build upon the reported findings and establish best practices for continued safe and productive operations.

Keywords: COVID-19; COVID-19 risk; construction delays; construction productivity; construction safety; lessons learned; mitigation strategies; occupational safety; safety risk; worker safety.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 / epidemiology*
  • COVID-19 / prevention & control
  • Communicable Disease Control
  • Construction Industry / trends*
  • Humans
  • Masks
  • Pandemics*
  • Risk Management
  • United States / epidemiology