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Weather Impacts Typical March Hiring Pattern

Mon May 07, 2012 - National Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

Construction employment increased in 155 out of 337 metropolitan areas between March 2011 and March 2012, decreased in 134 and stayed level in 48, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released May 2 by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials said that fewer metro areas added construction jobs in March compared to February because of disruptions to typical hiring patterns caused by weather.

“While last March firms were getting a late start to the construction season because the winter was so cold, this year’s warm winter allowed many firms to do their typical spring hiring in February,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “It is too early to tell whether the hiring momentum within construction is slowing down or just pausing to let contractors catch up with the weather.”

Bakersfield-Delano, Calif., added the highest percentage of new construction jobs (30 percent, 3,900 jobs) followed by Battle Creek, Mich. (25 percent, 300 jobs) and Fargo, N.D.-Minn. (25 percent, 1,400 jobs). Denver-Aurora-Broomfield, Colo., added the most jobs (5,600 jobs, 9 percent). Other areas adding a large number of jobs included Indianapolis-Carmel, Ind. (5,300 jobs, 15 percent); Phoenix-Mesa, Ariz. (4,200 jobs, 5 percent); Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, Ore.-Wash. (4,000 jobs, 9 percent) and Bakersfield-Delano.

The largest job losses were in Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, Ill. (minus 5,900 jobs, minus 6 percent), followed by St. Louis, Mo.-Ill. (minus 5,700 jobs, minus 9 percent); Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, Ga. (minus 4,100 jobs, minus 5 percent) and Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla. (minus 4,000 jobs, minus 8 percent). Monroe, Mich. (minus 36 percent, minus 800 jobs) lost the highest percentage. Other areas experiencing large percentage declines in construction employment included Springfield, Mass.-Conn. (minus 25 percent, minus 2,000 jobs), Anchorage, Alaska (minus 20 percent, minus 1,600 jobs), Anniston-Oxford, Ala. (minus 20 percent, minus 200 jobs) and Sheboygan, Wis. (minus 20 percent, minus 300 jobs).

Association officials said construction employment also was impacted by the market uncertainty being created by unresolved federal infrastructure measures. Construction firms that build public infrastructure, in particular, are uncertain about future work levels given Washington’s failure to enact a host of long-term investment measures like the highway and transit bill. Adding to the confusion, many construction firms, including many small companies that file taxes under individual rates, are uncertain how much they will owe starting next year, they added.

“When it comes to politicians talking about the need to support private sector job creation, construction firms could benefit from less rhetoric and more action,” said the association’s chief executive officer, Stephen E. Sandherr. “Instead of jousting at straw men and arguing about who cares more, it would be helpful if Congress and the administration would instead help end much of the uncertainty holding back the industry.”

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