Job Numbers Robust, Despite Harsh Weather

Tue March 25, 2014 - National Edition

Construction firms added jobs in 38 states between January 2013 and January 2014, while 27 states experienced construction employment gains between December and January, according to an analysis March 17 by the Associated General Contractors of America of Labor Department data. Association officials said the fact so many states added construction jobs for the year and month despite harsh winter conditions in many parts of the country is a sign that demand appears to be recovering.

“Especially considering the fact many parts of the country experienced very harsh weather in January, these construction jobs figures are particularly robust,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Yet some of these gains will be at risk if federal transportation funding comes to halt this summer as predicted.”

Kansas led all states with a 10.7 percent rise (5,900 jobs) in construction employment between January 2013 and January 2014. Other states adding a high percentage of new construction jobs for the year included Oregon (9.4 percent, 6,600 jobs); Florida (9.2 percent, 32,700 jobs); Minnesota (9.2 percent, 8,900 jobs) and Alaska (9.1 percent, 1,500 jobs). Florida added the most jobs for the year, followed by California (27,300 jobs, 4.4 percent); Texas (26,000 jobs, 4.3 percent) and Ohio (11,600 jobs, 6.3 percent).

Nine states and the District of Columbia lost jobs between January 2013 and 2014, while construction employment was unchanged in three other states. Wyoming (minus 5.9 percent, minus 1,300 jobs) experienced the largest annual percentage loss, followed by West Virginia (minus 5.4 percent, minus 1,900 jobs); New Hampshire (minus 4.4 percent, minus 1,000 jobs) and D.C. (minus 4.3 percent, minus 600 jobs). Indiana (minus 3,700 jobs, minus 3.0 percent) lost the most jobs for the year, followed by West Virginia, Wyoming and New Jersey (minus 1,300 jobs, minus 1.0 percent).

Idaho (5.8 percent, 1,900 jobs) added the highest percentage of new construction jobs between December and January, followed by Arkansas (5.0 percent, 2,300 jobs); Kansas (4.6 percent, 2,700 jobs) and New Jersey (4.4 percent, 5,700 jobs). Ohio (8,000 jobs, 4.3 percent) added the most jobs for the month. Other states adding a high number of jobs for the month included New York (7,900 jobs, 2.5 percent); Pennsylvania (7,500 jobs, 3.4 percent) and North Carolina (6,400 jobs, 3.7 percent).

For the month, 21 states and the District of Columbia lost construction jobs while employment levels were unchanged in two others. Vermont (minus 5.5 percent, minus 800 jobs) experienced the largest percentage decline, followed by Iowa (minus 3.8 percent, minus 2,600 jobs); Indiana (minus 3.4 percent, minus 4,300 jobs) and Missouri (minus 3.1 percent, minus 3,300 jobs). California (minus 6,600 jobs, minus 1.0 percent) shed the most construction jobs for the month, followed by Indiana, Missouri and Iowa.

Association officials said the construction employment figures were an encouraging sign that demand was rebounding after years of weak demand. But they warned that new predictions that the federal Highway Trust Fund, which finances highway, bridge and transit construction across the country, would hit a zero balance by this summer could undermine the sector’s recovery during the middle of the construction season.

“Right now demand seems strong enough in many parts of the country to keep many people working in harsh, wintery conditions,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “But demand for new workers will certainly cool this summer should Congress and the administration fail to address the looming transportation funding shortfalls that threaten billions of dollars worth of construction projects.”