Construction employment declined in 157 out of 337 metropolitan areas between April 2011 and April 2012, increased in 120 and stayed level in 60, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). Association officials said that construction employment continues to suffer from relatively weak demand being driven largely by declines in public-sector investments.
“As public investments in infrastructure and other forms of construction continue to decline, construction employment is taking a hit in many parts of the country,” said Ken Simonson, AGC’s chief economist. “Even in places where construction employment is increasing, the figures would have been better if the public sector wasn’t holding things back.”
The largest job losses were in Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, Ill. (-6,500 jobs, -6%), followed by Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla. (-6,200 jobs, -12%); St. Louis, Mo.-Ill. (-6,000 jobs, -9%); Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, Ga. (-5,400 jobs, -6%); and New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, La. (-4,600 jobs, -14%). Anchorage, Alaska (-28%, -2,400 jobs) lost the highest percentage. Other areas experiencing large percentage declines in construction employment included Springfield, Mass.-Conn. (-21%, -1,900 jobs), Lewiston, Idaho-Wash. (-20%, -200 jobs) and Montgomery, Ala. (-20%, -1,300 jobs).
Association officials said one of the main reasons behind recent declines in public-sector investments in construction was the fact that the reauthorization of a number of key federal infrastructure programs has been languishing for years. Fortunately, Congressional negotiators are reportedly close to finalizing a new surface transportation bill that would help support needed highway, bridge and transit improvements across the country. The negotiations are now in their third week.
“One of the best ways to boost the private sector and put construction workers back on the job is by investing in our aging infrastructure,” said AGC’s chief executive officer, Stephen Sandherr. “Instead of undermining the construction industry’s recovery, Congress is just a few votes away from helping it.”