Construction employment increased in fewer than half of the nation’s metro areas between July 2014 and July 2015, the weakest expansion since late 2011, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released Sept. 1 by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials noted that the new jobs data comes while a series of vital federal infrastructure funding measures, notably the surface transportation program, languish unfinished in Congress.
“Although construction employment and spending are still expanding well overall, the gains are increasingly spotty,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Uncertainty over funding for transportation infrastructure, a contraction in oil and gas drilling, and turmoil in international markets have left many local construction markets behind even as others grow strongly.”
Simonson noted that, of the 358 metro areas for which the Labor Department provides construction employment data, only 168 (47 percent) experienced an increase in construction employment from July 2014 to July 2015. Construction employment declined in 138 metro areas (39 percent) and was level in 52 metros (15 percent). Nationally, construction employment increased by 231,000 (3.8 percent) over the past 12 months.
Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Wash., added the largest number of construction jobs in the past year (10,300 jobs, 13 percent), followed by Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills, Mich. (9,100 jobs, 20 percent), Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colo. (8,900 jobs, 10 percent) and Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights, Ill. (8,500 jobs, 7 percent). The largest percentage gains occurred in El Centro, Calif. (28 percent, 500 jobs), Weirton-Steubenville, W.V.-Ohio (28 percent, 500 jobs), Wenatchee, Wash. (23 percent, 500 jobs) and Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills, Mich.
The largest job losses from July 2014 to July 2015 were in Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas (minus 3,300 jobs, minus 4 percent), followed by New Orleans-Metairie, La. (minus 2,700 jobs, minus 9 percent), Gulfport-Biloxi-Pascagoula, Miss. (minus 2,100 jobs, minus 23 percent), Bergen-Hudson-Passaic, N.J. (minus 1,900 jobs, minus 6 percent) and Akron, Ohio (minus 1,800 jobs, minus 13 percent). The largest percentage decline for the past year was in Gulfport-Biloxi-Pascagoula followed by Lawrence-Methuen Town-Salem, Mass.-N.H. (minus 16 percent, minus 400 jobs), Bloomington, Ind. (minus 15 percent, minus 400 jobs) and Santa Fe, N.M. (minus 15 percent, minus 400 jobs).
Association officials urged Congress to take up the federal surface transportation bill and set funding levels for many other federal construction programs as soon as possible once members return to Washington after Labor Day. They added that without these measures in place, more areas of the country were likely to suffer drops in the total number of construction jobs.
“More metro areas are likely to suffer construction employment declines if policy makers in Washington fail to enact an adequately funded long-term bill for highway and transit infrastructure investment,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer.
For more information, visit www.agc.org.
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