The thing about the construction industry is: what can’t be built in the next few weeks or so is still being built.
Delayed jobs are not disappeared jobs.
The same does not apply to the uncleaned offices and apartments, the concerts not played, the hotel room beds not uncovered, the students not enrolled, the conferences not held, the exhibitions not held, the catering for parties not celebrated, the ski accommodations not occupied, the plays not listed, the restaurants are not occupied.
For a tough industry, there seems to be a lot of screaming kids in construction.
This is an industry that is experiencing relative hiccups in the midst of an absolute boom.
A heavy downpour for a few weeks can bring sites to a standstill without headlines threatening economic Armageddon.
The industry closes for a month every Christmas, but the sun rises too.
The industry with the most political colleagues can be recognized by the attention that is paid to it. From the CFMEU on the one hand to the developers on the other, the spectrum for political access is pretty well covered.
The construction industry is well represented in the political spectrum. Photo: Getty
Yes, the three state lockdown is a bastard, and when pitch is shared there is no rule that it needs to be shared evenly.
The economic impact on any worker who is not paid while we stay at home is harsh.
Government support does not do much to cushion this this time around, and there are always those who fall between the cracks of the help offered.
After JobKeeper’s conviction – the Morrison government’s conviction has shown no interest in withdrawing – the Feds are not building a “bridge” this time around, although there is now more generosity with New South Wales taking center stage.
For companies whose work and income are not delayed but simply disappear during the lockdown – this is absolutely cruel.
But for an industry whose work and income are primarily delayed, it is levels of difficulty in life.
Banks should understand such a cash flow disruption – and they usually were. A construction job with a decent contract is bankable.
Customers also have no choice but to accept the delay. That can cause additional costs, but which construction project doesn’t end up with them?
It has never been cheaper for large corporations to take out loans. After taxes and inflation are deducted, the money is free.
Any large company that doesn’t manage to hover in the middle of a boom for a few weeks – and construction is absolutely booming, with a shortage of materials and skilled workers being the biggest problem so far – is likely in trouble for other reasons.
For smaller operators, this is the time to keep your financiers, suppliers, customers and employees close and well informed.
They should get used to that after the last year. It’s going to be hard, but hard things happen and we keep going.
Better placed than most
Of all the disruptive industries, construction should be among the best grown, but any industry and lobby group can count on them to whine long and loud if they think it might pay off.
Again, yes, the delays will hurt GDP growth and there are a lot of people involved, but there are a lot more people in other industries who are not getting as much attention and with no opportunity to make up for what was missed during the lockdown .
A rare voice of perspective among the screaming headlines this week was Robert Mellor, the immediate former chairman of BIS Oxford Economics and for more than four decades a construction forecaster.
In the bottom half of a story that centered on the claim that the closure of construction in Sydney would cost the NSW $ 700 million a week economy, Mr Mellor said the long-term impact of a two- or even four-week lockdown on the NSW Construction industry would be “relatively minimal” – maybe 5 percent less over the course of a year.
“The impact on the construction industry is important that the ongoing projects will eventually happen when we exit this lockdown,” he said, explaining what should be obvious.
It’s a matter of priorities.
For the benefit of all of us, No.1 now contains the Delta variant until anyone who wants to be vaccinated can be vaccinated.