Construction employment showed a mixed pattern geographically in the latest 12 months, increasing in 219 out of 358 metro areas between January 2016 and January 2017, declining in 104 and stagnating in 35, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released today by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials noted that firms in many parts of the country are either benefitting from growing demand for construction or having a hard time finding enough qualified workers to keep up with demand, while firms in other parts suffer from declining demand
“While construction employment is growing at a healthy clip overall, there are many pockets of decline across the map and even within states or metro areas,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “These shifts, depending on location, may reflect a shortage of skilled workers available to hire, a lack of funding for infrastructure and other projects, or broader economic trends.”
Nationally, construction employment increased by 184,000 or 2.8 percent from January 2016 to January 2017, and the number of metro areas with increases was more than double the number with decreases, the economist pointed out. But some states, such as Texas, had both types of metro areas. Adjacent portions of southern California were among the top job gainers and job losers, he noted. Some areas that depend heavily on oil or gas drilling lost jobs but may be poised for recovery now that drilling-rig counts have risen again, he predicted.
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, Ga. (8,600 jobs, 8 percent) added the most construction jobs during the past year, followed by Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas (8,300 jobs, 6 percent); Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla. (7,700 jobs, 12 percent); Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Fla. (6,700 jobs, 10 percent); and Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif. (6,200 jobs, 7 percent). The largest percentage gains occurred in the Grand Forks, N.D.-Minn. metro area (36 percent, 1,000 jobs) and the Lewiston, Idaho-Wash. area (36 percent, 400 jobs), followed by Pocatello, Idaho (29 percent, 400 jobs).
The largest job losses from January 2016 to January 2017 were in Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas (-8,200 jobs, -4 percent), followed by Pittsburgh, Pa. (-2,700 jobs, -6 percent); and Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif. (-2,100 jobs, -2 percent). The largest percentage decreases for the year were in Casper, Wyo. (-22 percent, -700 jobs); Cleveland, Tenn. (-21 percent, -400 jobs); and Danville, Ill. (-20 percent, -100 jobs).
Association officials said many more firms would benefit from the growing demand for construction that comes with new infrastructure investments, while many others would benefit from new measures to boost the supply of qualified workers to hire. They urged Congress and the administration to act on the measures outlined in the association’s Agenda to Rebuild Our Infrastructure and Our Craft Workforce.
“Construction employment growth would almost certainly be more widespread if we were investing more in our infrastructure and rebuilding systems for recruiting and preparing new workers,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “The fact is that there are many markets in this country where firms need more work, and many others where firms need more workers.”