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OCS survey: ICI construction shows signs of stability but anxiety over second wave looms

Ontario Construction News staff writer

There are signs of stability in Ontario’s Industrial, Commercial and Institutional (ICI) sector – but also anxiety about the potential impact of a second COVID-19 wave, the Ontario Construction Secretariat (OCS) reports in its fourth pandemic-related independent survey.

The Coronavirus Contractors Survey 4: Stability & Anxiety, released on Oct. 5, is based on communications from 300 Ontario ICI contractors between Sept. 8 and 18.

“This survey provides insight on how the construction industry is showing signs of stability but anxiety over a second wave of COVID-19 persists,” OCS said in a statement. “Contractors are also expressing some concerns about the outlook for 2021.”

OCS says the survey found that the threat of a second wave of COVID-19 is the biggest concern of contractors. There has been little change over top concerns from previous surveys including supply chain disruptions, skilled labour availability, and ensuring the health and safety of workers and staff.

Between Sept. 8 and 18, the OCS led a Contractor’s Survey of 300 ICI contractors from across Ontario.

The survey provides insights on how the construction industry is showing signs of stability but anxiety of a second wave of COVID-19 persists. Contractors are also expressing some concerns about the outlook of 2021 and a significant decline in concern regarding project cost over-runs due to sanitation, safety and social distancing protocols. Here are some highlights from the latest survey:

Top Contractor Concerns

  • A second wave of COVID-19
  • Supply chain disruptions, skilled labour availability, ensuring health and safety for workers

Status of Construction Activity

  • Contractors report that on average, 23% of their work is stopped because of the coronavirus, down from 28% in Survey 3
  • They also report that 29% of work is delayed on average, down from 41% in Survey 3
  • 56% of contractors say most or all of their work has now resumed, up from 49% in Survey 3

Financial Impact

  • 54 per cent of contractors said before the pandemic their business was growing, now only 13 per cent report that their business is growing
  • Only 3 per cent said their business was in decline before the pandemic, since the pandemic 33 per cent say their business is declining
  • 66 per cent of firms expect less revenue in 2020 compared to 2019
  • 2020 revenue expectations have improved, with a -16 per cent decline expected on average compared to last year (In Survey 2 the expectation was -26 per cent and -23 per cent in Survey 3)
  • Half of firms expect less revenue in the Sept-Dec period compared to Sept-Dec 2019

As for future expectations, 52 per cent of contractors said they expect to do less work in the Sept. to Dec. period this year, compared to last year and 19 per cent expect to be busier.

Also, 37 per cent said it will be more difficult to attract skilled labour this fall and winter. That follows a summer where just over half said it was more difficult than usual to find enough skilled workers.

Contractors reported that on average, 23 per cent of their work has been stopped because of the coronavirus, down from 28 per cent in Survey 3.

Projections for the remainder of 2020 are disheartening as 51 per cent of contractors expect to do less work in the September – December period compared to last year where 19 per cent of contractors expected more work

Also, 37 per cent of contractors expect it to be more difficult to obtain skilled labour compared to September – December 2019, while 10 per cent expected less difficulty.

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