Construction job report mixed in August

Delaware and California had worst monthly losses; Kentucky and Colorado had largest monthly gains

September 19, 2011

Construction employment at the state level was mixed for the year and month as 25 states and the District of Columbia lost jobs between July and August while 26 states and D.C. added jobs between August 2010 and August 2011, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) of Labor Department data. The relatively even divide between gainers and losers reflects continued weak demand for construction services that has been contributing to flat employment levels for much of the past year, association officials noted.

“There is no clear pattern of improvement in construction employment, although the industry is no longer in free fall,” said Ken Simonson, AGC’s chief economist. “Just as a few states have settled into a pattern of consistently adding construction jobs, a similar number seem to be consistently losing jobs.”

The largest percentage monthly decline in construction employment occurred in Delaware (-4.8%, -900 jobs); followed by Alabama (-3.9%, -3,300 jobs); Arkansas (-3.9%, -1,900 jobs); and New Hampshire (-3.8%, -800 jobs). The largest number of construction job losses over the month was in California (-7,200 jobs, -1.3%); followed by Alabama; Wisconsin (-3,000 jobs, -3.3%); and Florida (-1,900 jobs, -0.6%).

Among the 22 states that added construction jobs during the past month, Kentucky had the largest percentage increase (3.6%, 2,300 jobs). Other states adding a high percentage of construction jobs for the month included Colorado (3.0%, 3,100 jobs); North Dakota (2.8%, 700 jobs); and Minnesota (2.6%, 2,200 jobs). Colorado added the largest number of jobs; followed by Michigan (3,000 jobs, 2.3%); Georgia (3,000 jobs, 2.2%); and Kentucky. Construction employment was unchanged for the month in three states.

Among the 24 states that lost construction jobs during the past 12 months, Delaware (-7.3%, -1,400 jobs) had the highest percentage decline. Other states with large percentage declines included New Mexico (-6.9%, -3,000 jobs); Georgia (-6.9%, -10,300 jobs); and Alaska (-6.9%, -1,100 jobs). Florida (-17,600 jobs, -5.1%) lost the most jobs followed by Georgia; Wisconsin (-5,900 jobs, -6.3%); and Colorado (-5,900 jobs, -5.2%).

The largest percentage increase in construction employment during the past year took place in North Dakota (20.3%, 4,300 jobs). Other states experiencing large percentage increases included Michigan (10.4%, 12,600 jobs); Tennessee (5.5%, 5,800 jobs); and Illinois (5.4%, 10,600 jobs). Texas again added the most jobs during the past year (27,100 jobs, 4.8%); followed by Michigan; Illinois and California (7,800 jobs, 1.4%).

Association officials said construction firms continue to suffer from weak private-sector and declining public-sector demand for construction services. Noting that Congress has just enacted new temporary extensions to aviation and surface transportation construction legislation, they urged Washington officials to finally enact the kind of long-term infrastructure legislation needed to allow major infrastructure projects to start across the country.

“Construction employers are certainly relieved that billions in construction projects won’t come to a halt later this month,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, AGC’s chief executive officer. “But it is unrealistic to expect firms to expand payrolls when they don’t know how much work will be available a few months from now.”