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Construction Jobs Increase But Data Doesn't Reflect Likely Impact Of Coronavirus On Industry

Tue March 17, 2020 - National Edition

Twelve month percent change in construction employment by state, January 2019 to January 2020.
Twelve month percent change in construction employment by state, January 2019 to January 2020.

Construction employment increased in 32 states in January compared to both December and January 2019, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America of Labor Department data released March 16. Association officials said that the data was collected well before the coronavirus began to impact the economy and that construction employment levels are likely to decline beginning in March as the virus impacts many parts of the economy.

"The construction industry began 2020 with widespread employment gains, although fewer states had increases than in 2019," said Ken Simonson, the association's chief economist. "Exceptionally mild winter weather in many states probably added to January construction employment totals."

Texas added the most construction jobs between January 2019 and January 2020 (34,900 jobs, 4.6 percent), followed by Florida (21,500 jobs, 3.9 percent) and California (17,400 jobs, 2.0 percent). Utah added the highest percentage of construction jobs (7.5 percent, 8,000 jobs) over 12 months, followed by New Mexico (7.1 percent, 3,400 jobs) and North Dakota (6.5 percent, 1,800 jobs).

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia shed construction jobs between January 2019 and January 2020, while employment was flat in Kansas. Louisiana lost the most construction jobs (minus 15,200 jobs, minus 10.1 percent). Other states with substantial job losses include West Virginia (minus 5,100 jobs, minus 13.0 percent) and Illinois (minus 2,400 jobs, minus 1.1 percent). West Virginia lost the highest percentage of construction jobs over 12 months, followed by Louisiana and Vermont (minus 3.0 percent, minus 800 jobs).

New York added the most construction jobs between December and January (4,700 jobs, 1.2 percent), followed by Pennsylvania (4,400 jobs, 1.7 percent), Florida (3,600 jobs, 0.6 percent) and Maryland (3,500 jobs, 2.1 percent). New Hampshire added the highest percentage of construction jobs (3.5 percent, 1,000 jobs), followed by Delaware (2.7 percent, 600 jobs), Arkansas (2.5 percent, 1,300 jobs), West Virginia (2.4 percent, 800 jobs) and Maryland.

Construction employment decreased from December to January in 16 states and was unchanged in Rhode Island, South Carolina and D.C. Washington state lost the largest number of construction jobs (minus 3,500 jobs, minus 1.6 percent), followed by California (minus 2,400 jobs, minus 0.3 percent), Oregon (minus 1,400 jobs, minus 1.3 percent) and Alabama (minus 1,300 jobs, minus 1.4 percent). Washington also had the largest percentage decline for the month, followed by Alabama, Oregon and Hawaii (minus 1.3 percent, minus 500 jobs).

Association officials cautioned that the coronavirus is likely to have a significant impact on construction employment and urged federal officials to take steps to mitigate the impact. Those measures should include fashioning a more realistic Family Medical Leave proposal that won't force unnecessary layoff or bankruptcies as part of the coronavirus legislation, providing flexible schedules for contractors working on federally funded projects and boosting investments in infrastructure and other public works.

"There is no doubt the coronavirus will have a significant impact on our economy, including the construction sector," said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's chief executive officer. "That is why federal officials should act quickly to protect employers and employees, provide contractors with greater flexibility and offset the inevitable private-sector slowdown in construction demand."

View the state employment data by 1- and 12-month rank and state map.

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