Construction employment expanded in 20 states between October and November, while the list of states with year-over-year construction job gains grew to 13 states plus the District of Columbia, the Associated General Contractors of America reported in an analysis of state employment data released Dec. 17 by the Labor Department. The new figures continue a year-long pattern of mixed results in construction employment as overall demand remains weak, association officials noted.
“It is encouraging that the number of states adding jobs year-over-year was higher in November than at any time since February 2008,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “However, the data also make clear that these gains are as spotty as they are tenuous.”
Simonson noted, for example, that California had the largest monthly increase in construction employment — adding 7,800 jobs — but also the largest 12-month drop — 36,900 jobs, or 6.4 percent. New Jersey and New York had the next-highest number of construction job gains in November with 4,500. New Jersey also led the nation in monthly percentage gains (3.7 percent), followed by Vermont (3.4 percent, 400 jobs) and Maine (2.5 percent, 600 jobs).
The largest year-over-year percentage gains occurred in Oklahoma (9.2 percent, 6,100 jobs), New Hampshire (6.7 percent, 1,500 jobs) and Kansas (4.7 percent, 2,700 jobs). Texas had the largest increase in the number of construction employees (13,400 jobs, 2.4 percent). Washington had the largest number of monthly job losses (4,200 jobs), followed by Utah (2,400 jobs) and North Carolina (2,300).
In November, employment shrank in 29 states and held steady in D.C. and Alaska. On a year-over-year basis, the largest losses were in California (36,900 jobs, minus 6.4 percent), Nevada (16,600 jobs, minus 22.0 percent — the steepest percentage decline) and Florida (12,900 jobs, minus 3.6 percent). Other large year-over-year percentage declines occurred in Idaho (minus 15.5 percent, 5,100 jobs) and Montana (minus 11.2 percent, 2,700 jobs).
In all, 36 states lost construction jobs over the past 12 months, while construction employment was unchanged in Massachusetts.
Association officials cautioned that construction employment figures were likely to fluctuate and possibly drop over the coming months as many stimulus-funded projects begin to wind down and private-sector demand remains weak. They added that newly passed legislation that prevented steep tax increases, including for many small construction firms, will help boost overall economic activity and could drive new demand for construction later next year.
“The tax bill is a step in the right direction because it will revitalize the economy and help boost private-sector construction demand,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “But Congress still needs to act on long-delayed infrastructure bills and provide businesses with relief from an increasingly costly regulatory burden.