Construction employment increased in 191 out of 339 metropolitan areas between June 2012 and June 2013, declined in 97 and was flat in 51, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released July 30 by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials welcomed the construction employment gains but cautioned that demand remained spotty amid continued efforts to cut federal investments in vital infrastructure projects, including for clean water systems.
"Although construction activity remains extremely spotty, with strong residential activity offsetting lackluster private nonresidential investment and shrinking public construction spending, workers are being hired in more and more metro areas," said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. "There is widespread good news for now but the industry remains far below previous employment peaks in most markets."
The number of metro areas with construction employment increases rose for the fifth consecutive month in June after bottoming out at 146 gainers in January, Simonson noted. The June total of 191 metro areas adding construction jobs was the largest number since March 2012.
Two metro areas tied for the largest number of new jobs added in the past 12 months: Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, Mass. (9,900 jobs, 19 percent) and Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, Texas (9,900 jobs, 6 percent). They were followed closely by Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, Ariz. (9,600 jobs, 11 percent) and Los Angeles-Long-Beach-Glendale (9,200 jobs, 8 percent). The largest percentage gains since June 2012 occurred in Pascagoula, Miss. (33 percent, 1,500 jobs), followed by Eau Claire, Wis. (31 percent, 1,000 jobs).
The largest job losses were in Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif. (minus 5,500 jobs, minus 9 percent), followed by Northern Virginia (minus 2,900 jobs, minus 4 percent). The steepest percentage declines in construction employment occurred in Rockford, Ill. (minus 13 percent, minus 600 jobs) and Pocatello, Idaho (minus 13 percent, minus 200 jobs). They were followed by Gary, Ind. (minus 12 percent, minus 2,500 jobs) and Yuma, Ariz. (minus 12 percent, minus 300 jobs).
Association officials said that despite growing signs of a construction recovery, the industry still faces challenges, including continued efforts to cut federal investments in infrastructure projects. They noted that a Congressional subcommittee voted to cut funding for water and wastewater infrastructure by 75 percent for next year, from $2.36 billion in 2013 to $600 million in 2014.
"Construction employment is heading in the right direction for now, but demand remains weak and the industry’s recovery is still very fragile," said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. "Beyond the obvious threats to the broader economy, cutting investments in vital infrastructure projects puts some of these new construction jobs at risk."