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Growing Number of Metro Areas Added Construction Jobs

Fri December 31, 2010 - National Edition

Construction employment either increased or remained steady in a growing number of metropolitan areas — 120 of 337 — between November 2009 and November 2010 according to a new analysis of federal employment data released by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials said construction employment is improving slightly due in large part to temporary federal funding for stimulus and military construction.

“It is good to see the construction industry finishing the year on a relatively positive note,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “But even if the industry is no longer on the brink, it is still a long way from recovering.”

Phoenix, Ariz., added more construction jobs (3,100 jobs, 4 percent) than any of the 70 metro areas to add jobs during the past year. Hanford-Corcoran, Calif., added the highest percentage (33 percent, 300 jobs). Other areas adding jobs included Nassau-Suffolk, N.Y. (2,200 jobs, 3 percent); Pittsburgh, Pa. (2,100 jobs, 4 percent); Greeley, Colo. (1,400 jobs, 16 percent); and Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas (900, 5 percent).

Construction employment was unchanged in 49 metro areas.

The Chicago area lost more construction jobs (minus 14,800 jobs, minus 11 percent) than any of the other 217 metro areas where construction employment declined. Napa, Calif. (minus 1,900 jobs, minus 33 percent) lost the highest percentage. Other areas experiencing large declines in construction employment included Las Vegas (minus 13,400 jobs, minus 23 percent); Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif. (minus 8,100 jobs, minus 7 percent); Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, Ga. (minus 6,400 jobs, minus 7 percent); and Oakland-Fremont-Hayward, Calif. (minus 5,900 jobs, minus 11 percent).

Association officials said that construction employment was up in a growing number of metro areas due to ongoing demand for stimulus and other public projects. They added that new hospital, university and power construction were helping to partially offset severe declines in overall private-sector construction demand. Continued state, local and private sector weakness, combined with uncertainty about long-term federal funding for infrastructure could mean more industry job losses in 2011, officials warned.

“Temporary programs like the stimulus helped the construction industry go from really hard-hit to just hard-hit,” said Stephen Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer.

“Finally passing long-delayed water and transportation infrastructure bills would help give contractors the stability the industry has been lacking for over two years now.”