Construction employment expanded in 56 out of 337 metropolitan areas between August 2009 and August 2010 according to a new analysis of federal employment data released Sept. 27 by the Associated General Contractors of America. More cities added construction jobs during the past year than at any point since September 2008, indicating that the worst of the industry’s job losses may be over, association officials noted.
“With construction employment on the mend in an increasing number of areas, it appears that the worst is finally over,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “The fact remains, however, that this industry has a long way to go before we see construction employment back to pre-recession levels.”
Simonson noted that Kansas City, Kan. added more construction jobs (2,500 jobs, 13 percent) than any other metro area while Hanford-Corcoran, Calif., added the highest percentage (22 percent, 200 jobs).
Other areas adding jobs included Pittsburgh, Pa. (2,000 jobs, 4 percent); Calvert-Charles-Prince Georges counties, Md. (1,200 jobs, 3 percent); Chattanooga, Tenn. (700 jobs, 8 percent); and Eau Claire, Wis. (600 jobs, 19 percent).
Simonson added that 245 metro areas lost construction jobs while construction employment was unchanged in another 36.
The Chicago-Joliet-Naperville area lost more construction jobs (22,600 jobs, 16 percent) than any other metro area, even after a construction strike ended in July. Napa, Calif. (900 jobs, 30 percent) lost the highest percentage. Other areas experiencing large declines in construction employment included Las Vegas (13,500 jobs, 22 percent); Houston (11,200 jobs, 6 percent); Seattle-Bellevue-Everett (9,100 jobs, 12 percent); and Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif. (8,500 jobs, 13 percent).
Association officials said that even as the employment outlook improves in a growing number of metropolitan areas, construction unemployment remains nearly double the national average. They added that Congress is now a year late in passing major highway and transit investment legislation as well as other key infrastructure bills. Federal inaction, combined with ongoing weak private, state and local demand will continue to undermine chances of a broader construction industry recovery, officials noted.
“The fact that the best news the industry has had in years is that we’re not losing jobs as fast as we were is a reflection of how hard hit construction has been during the downturn,” said Stephen Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Too many construction workers remain unemployed while Congress lets long-delayed infrastructure legislation idle.”