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Simonson Says: Construction Jobs Shrivel as Industry Awaits Shovel-Ready Stimulus

January 16, 2009
Construction was on the bleeding edge of job losses last year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday that construction accounted for nearly one-quarter of the 2.6 million jobs lost throughout the economy in 2008, even though the industry employs only one out of 20 nonfarm workers. The industry has shed jobs for 18 months in a row, with losses accelerating rapidly from 20,000 in September to 101,000 in December. Further losses seem all but certain. Last month, 236 AGC members answered a short survey that asked about market conditions. AGC released the results on Thursday, January 8, coincidentally a few hours after President-elect Barack Obama urged Congress to quickly pass a stimulus bill containing large doses of spending on transportation, public building, power and other infrastructure spending. The overwhelming majority of respondents said they had seen or expect a downturn in the following construction markets: highway, 93%; building, 92%; utility, 84%; water resources, 78%; other public work, 91%; and private construction, 96%. Three-quarters of respondents had laid off workers in the past 6-12 months as a result of the downturn; the median response was about 30% of the workforce had been laid off. Nearly two-thirds expect further layoffs in the next 6-12 months. Underscoring the value of federal stimulus funding, 86 of respondents said that if their state received extra federal funding and therefore was able to put additional projects out to bid, they would avert layoffs and/or hire additional workers. Five out of six said they would be able to begin work within a month or less after being awarded a project. Most also said winning new projects would affect their decision to purchase new equipment. Thanks go to the many members who took the time to fill out the survey, providing additional detail on many of the questions. To see a copy, go to www.agc.org/survey_results. For more information, contact Ken Simonson at (703)837-5313 or simonsonk@agc.org.
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