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Construction Employment: Where the Jobs Are

A new study finds that three-fourths of all states added jobs in the last 12 months.

Wed July 23, 2014 - National Edition
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Construction firms added jobs in 38 states and the District of Columbia over the past 12 months, but they reduced headcount in 27 states between May and June, according to an analysis July 18 of Labor Department data by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials said the employment gains help, but that construction employment remains below peak levels in every location except North Dakota.

"The overall trend in construction employment remains favorable, with three-fourths of states adding jobs on a year-over-year basis," said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. "But the recovery remains choppy, not steady. In June, monthly gains occurred in fewer than half the states and the nation added just 6,000 construction jobs."

Florida led all states in percentage and total gains in construction employment (11.5 percent, 41,700 jobs) between June 2013 and June 2014. Other states adding a high percentage of new construction jobs for the past 12 months included Nevada (10.5 percent, 5,900 jobs), Utah (9.3 percent, 6,800 jobs), North Dakota (7.9 percent, 2,600 jobs) and Minnesota (7,900 jobs, 7.8 percent). Other states adding a high total of new construction jobs during the past year included California (29,800 jobs, 4.7 percent), Texas (19,100 jobs, 3.1 percent), Pennsylvania (13,000 jobs, 5.8 percent) and Minnesota.

Twelve states shed construction jobs during the past twelve months, with New Jersey losing the highest percent and total, (minus 8.1 percent, minus 11,200 jobs). Other states that lost a high percentage of jobs include Alaska (minus 5.5 percent, minus 900 jobs), New Hampshire (minus 4.4 percent, minus 1,000 jobs) and New Mexico (minus 3.9 percent, minus 1,600 jobs). Besides New Jersey, other states that lost the most construction jobs between June 2013 and June 2014 included Arizona (minus 4,500 jobs, minus 3.6 percent), Alabama (minus 2,700 jobs, minus 3.4 percent) and Kentucky (minus 2,400 jobs, minus 3.6 percent).

Twenty-one states and D.C. added construction jobs between May and June. Florida (8,800 jobs, 2.2 percent) added the most jobs, followed by Illinois (3,500 jobs, 1.8 percent), Indiana (2,700 jobs, 2.2 percent) and Pennsylvania (2,700 jobs, 1.1 percent). South Dakota (4.3 percent, 900 jobs) had the highest percentage increase for the month, followed by Florida, Indiana and Montana (2.2 percent, 500 jobs).

Twenty-seven states lost construction jobs for the month, while construction employment was unchanged in Arizona and New Mexico. California (minus 9,500 jobs, minus 1.4 percent) lost the most construction jobs between May and June. Other states experiencing large monthly declines in total construction employment included New York (minus 3,700 jobs, minus 1.1 percent), Oregon (minus 3,600 jobs, minus 4.5 percent) and Texas (minus 3,400 jobs, minus 0.5 percent). Alaska (minus 7.7 percent, minus 1,300 jobs) experienced the highest monthly percentage decline, followed by Oregon, Rhode Island (minus 2.9 percent, minus 500 jobs) and Hawaii (minus 2.2 percent, minus 700 jobs).

Association officials noted that the number of states adding new construction jobs for the month declined compared to the prior month. Uncertainty around the future state of federal infrastructure funding prompted some construction firms to put expansion plans on hold, officials suggested. They urged the Senate to enact a House-passed bill that keeps federal transportation funding at current levels through May of next year and act on unfinished appropriations bills to fund other infrastructure measures.

"It is hard for firms to grow when they don’t know how much work will be available in just a few weeks," said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. He added that a series of measures designed to make it easier for states to attract funding for infrastructure that the president announced should help boost construction employment.

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