Construction employment expanded in 29 states between September and October, while fewer people are working in construction compared to last year in 39 states, the Associated General Contractors of America reported in an analysis of state employment data released Nov. 23 by the Labor Department. The new figures continue a nearly year-long trend of ups and downs in construction employment as the industry performs stimulus-funded work yet grapples with broad market uncertainty.
“Considering that most states adding construction jobs in October had shed workers in September, it is safe to say that construction employment remains volatile,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Construction is no longer in free fall, but the industry remains fragile as improvements vary greatly by state and project type.”
Arizona (4.4%, 5,000 jobs) experienced the largest one-month seasonally adjusted percentage increase and Texas (2.3%, 8,800 jobs) the largest one-month total increase in construction employment between September and October. Other states adding large numbers of construction jobs during October included Illinois (1.5%, 3,000 jobs); Washington (2.1%, 3,000 jobs); South Carolina (3.2%, 2,500 jobs); and Colorado (1.6%, 1,800 jobs).
Simonson noted 20 states plus the District of Columbia lost construction jobs during the past month, while construction employment remained unchanged in Rhode Island. Minnesota (-2.7%, -2,300 jobs) lost the highest percent of construction jobs for the month while Florida lost the most jobs (-2.4%, -8,600 jobs). Among other states losing construction jobs between September and October were Pennsylvania (-1%, -2,200 jobs); Maryland (-1.3%, -1,900 jobs); Georgia (-1.2%, -1,800 jobs); and Massachusetts (-1.4%, -1,500 jobs).
Eleven states and D.C. added construction jobs for the year, Simonson added. The largest year-over-year percentage increase was in Kansas, where construction employment rose 9% (5,100 jobs), followed by Oklahoma (8.1%, 5,400 jobs); Arkansas (5.1%, 2,600 jobs); D.C. (4.6%, 500 jobs); and West Virginia (3.3%, 1,100 jobs).
Among the 39 states that lost construction jobs over the past 12 months, Nevada experienced the largest percentage decline (-19.5%, -14,500) while California lost the most jobs (-45,700, -7.9%). Other states experiencing large declines for the year include Idaho (-15.2%, -5,000 jobs); Vermont (-13.4%, -1,800 jobs); Montana (-10.5%, -2,500 jobs); and Missouri (-10.3%, -11,900 jobs).
Associated General Contractors of America officials said that temporary stimulus funding has helped the industry, but that most firms were worried about business levels for next year. They added that private, state and local demand for construction remains weak, while long-term federal infrastructure programs and tax rates remain in limbo. “We won’t see sustained job growth until the private sector picks up and long-term federal plans are clear,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer.