Construction employment declined in 146 out of 337 metropolitan areas between October 2010 and October 2011, increased in 140 and stayed level in 51, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released Dec. 5 by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials noted that many communities continue to lose construction jobs even as a federal program to invest in highway, transit and other infrastructure construction has been stalled in Congress for years.
“Declining federal investments in infrastructure projects, including highway and transit work, are making matters worse for construction employment in many communities,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “If it wasn’t for a slight increase in private sector demand, construction employment would be down in even more communities.”
The largest job losses were in Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, Ga. (minus 7,700 jobs, minus 8 percent), followed by Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla. (minus 4,000 jobs, minus 8 percent); New York City (minus 4,000 jobs, minus 4 percent); Philadelphia (minus 3,600 jobs, minus 5 percent) and the Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas area (minus 3,600 jobs, minus 3 percent). Logan, Utah (minus 24 percent, minus 800 jobs) lost the highest percentage. Other areas experiencing large percentage declines in construction employment included Wilmington, N.C. (minus 21 percent, minus 1,900 jobs); Redding, Calif. (minus 20 percent, minus 600 jobs) and Montgomery, Ala. (minus 19 percent, minus 1,300 jobs).
Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, Texas, added more construction jobs (5,100 jobs, 3 percent) than any other metro area during the past year while Lake County-Kenosha County, Ill.-Wis., added the highest percentage (28 percent, 3,500 jobs). Other areas adding a large number of jobs included Columbus, Ohio (4,200 jobs, 15 percent); Buffalo-Niagara Falls, N.Y. (3,600 jobs, 18 percent); Newark-Union, N.J.-Penn. (3,100 jobs, 9 percent) and San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif. (3,000 jobs, 9 percent).
Association officials noted that investments in infrastructure, including highway and transit construction, are suffering because Congress is years late in passing a new surface transportation, aviation and water infrastructure bills. They said without that legislation, state and local officials were having a hard time planning and funding large infrastructure projects.
“Letting infrastructure programs languish at a time like this is the equivalent of fighting the economic downturn with one hand tied behind our back,” said the association’s chief executive officer, Stephen E. Sandherr. “Investing in infrastructure won’t solve every problem facing the construction industry but it will create construction jobs while giving a needed boost to all types of businesses.”