Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colo. and Boise, Idaho Lead Growth List while Bloomington, Ill. and Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif. have Biggest Declines as Construction Labor Remains Scarce
Construction employment conditions varied widely by metro area between September 2015 and September 2016 as contractors in many areas struggled to find qualified workers while others contending with shrinking public budgets for infrastructure, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released today by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials said the new data shows the need to enact career and technical education reforms along with infrastructure funding.
“Overall, the employment picture for construction workers is positive—the number of metro areas adding construction jobs in the past year was more than triple the number that lost jobs,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “But contractors in many of the metros with stagnant or shrinking headcounts might have hired more workers if there were enough with construction skills. Meanwhile, public projects are dwindling in many areas because of sluggish federal and state spending.”
Construction employment increased in 226, or 63 percent, of 358 metro areas in the past year, held steady in 58 areas, and declined in 74 areas, the economist noted. Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colo. added the most construction jobs during the past year (13,400 jobs, 14 percent), followed by Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Fla. (12,500 jobs, 20 percent); Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Ariz. (9,600 jobs, 10 percent); Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine, Calif. (9,200 jobs, 10 percent); and Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade, Calif. (8,500 jobs, 16 percent). The largest percentage gains occurred in Boise City, Idaho (24 percent, 4,500 jobs); El Centro, Calif. (21 percent, 600 jobs); Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford and Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade.
The largest job losses from September 2015 to September 2016 were in Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif. (-2,600 jobs, -2 percent), followed by New Orleans-Metairie, La. (-2,300 jobs, -7 percent) and Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas (-1,900 jobs, -1 percent). The largest percentage declines for the past year were in Bloomington, Ill. (-13 percent, -400 jobs); Anniston-Oxford-Jacksonville, Ala. (-11 percent, -100 jobs); and Decatur, Ill. (-11 percent, -400 jobs).
Association officials said the spotty construction employment gains, along with recent data on job openings in the sector, make it clear that firms in many locations are having a hard time finding enough workers to hire. They urged Congress to complete action this month on reforming and boosting funding for career and technical education that would enable more young people to acquire the skills for jobs in construction and other hard-to-fill occupations, and to pass a water resources development bill.
“Many firms would hire more workers if enough qualified applicants were available,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer, who urged the Senate to act quickly on a House-passed measure to reform and boost funding for career and technical education programs. “At the same time, there is an urgent need to upgrade the nation’s water infrastructure for public health and commerce. And voters have a chance on many local ballot issues next week to show their support for needed public works improvements.”