Construction firms added jobs in 39 states over the past 12 months, while employment nearly stabilized in the remainder, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) of Labor Department data. Association officials cautioned that the industry’s recovery was still relatively fragile, noting that a number of states experiencing large annual gains lost jobs during the past month.
“The widespread job gains seen in most states for the past few months continued in November, while no state recorded a year-over-year loss of more than 4%,” said Ken Simonson, AGC’s chief economist. “But progress remains fragile, with some states having results in the latest month that diverge sharply from their year-over-year outcomes.” He added that every state remains below its previous construction employment peak.
Mississippi led all states with a 17% rise (8,000 jobs) in construction employment between November 2012 and November 2013. Yet the state ranked 49th out of 50 states plus D.C. between October and November, with a loss of 2.3%, or 1,300 construction jobs. Conversely, Indiana topped the monthly rankings, adding 4.8% (5,400 construction jobs), but lost 3.4% (–4,100 jobs) over 12 months. Only Montana (–4.0%, –900 jobs) and D.C. (–3.7%, –500 jobs) had steeper 12-month declines, Simonson pointed out.
States with strong 12-month percentage gains besides Mississippi included Connecticut (11%, 5,600 jobs), Missouri (9.8%, 10,100 jobs) and Georgia (9.5%, 13,200 jobs). California added the most jobs over the year (31,500, 5.2%), followed by Florida (24,300, 7.0%), Texas (13,300, 2.2%), Georgia and Missouri.
A total of 10 states plus D.C. shed construction jobs between November 2012 and November 2013, while employment was constant in Delaware. The largest number of losses occurred in Ohio (–5,200, –2.9%), followed by Indiana, Alabama (–2,500, –3.2%) and North Carolina (–2,500, –1.5%).
For the month, 30 states added construction jobs, 16 lost jobs, and employment held steady in four states plus D.C. In addition to Indiana, the steepest one-month gains occurred in New Hampshire (3.5%, 800 jobs) and Alaska (3.4%, 600 jobs). California added the most construction jobs in November (6,600, 1.1%), followed by Illinois (6,100, 3.3%) and Indiana. The steepest losses for the month occurred in Kentucky (–3.1%, –2,100 jobs), Louisiana (–2.6%, –3,700 jobs) and Mississippi. Louisiana lost the most jobs over the month, followed by Ohio (–3,600, –2.1%) and New York (–2,900, –0.9%).
AGC officials noted that the job gains occurred following an unusual spike in public construction spending experienced in October that masked softening private-sector demand. They cautioned that as public spending declines, construction employment is likely to weaken in many parts of the country. As a result, they urged Congress and the Obama administration to finalize water resources legislation and to act swiftly next year to renew long-term highway and transit legislation.
“At this point, it is hard to predict whether construction employment will continue to expand in many states next year,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, AGC’s chief executive officer. “Passing vital infrastructure measures will help protect construction employers from any softening in private-sector demand, while giving the economy a needed boost.”