New York, Louisiana Have Worst Losses Since February 2020, While Utah, South Dakota Top Gainers, Florida, Alabama, Rhode Island Have Worst One-Month Losses, While Texas, West Virginia Lead in December
Construction employment in December remained below levels reached just before the start of the pandemic in more than half the states despite widespread gains last month, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released today by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials said employment hasn’t recovered fully because most firms report difficulty finding workers, according to the association’s recent survey predicting the industry’s hiring and business outlook.
“Even though employment has risen in more states recently, so has the number of job openings as contractors struggle to find qualified workers in an increasingly tight labor market,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “In our survey of more than 1,000 construction firms, 74 percent expect to increase their headcount in the year ahead, but 75 percent expect finding workers will be as hard or harder than last year.”
From February 2020—the month before the pandemic caused projects to be halted or canceled—to last month, construction employment declined in 26 states, rose in 23 states and the District of Columbia, and was flat in Montana. New York lost the most construction jobs over the period (-42,000 jobs or -10.3 percent), followed by Texas (-30,200 jobs, -3.9 percent) and California (-22,300 jobs, -2.4 percent). The largest percentage losses were in Louisiana (-12.6 percent, -17,200 jobs), Wyoming (-10.9 percent, -2,500 jobs), and New York.
Utah added the most construction jobs since February 2020 (10,000 jobs, 8.8 percent), followed by Washington (8,200 jobs, 3.7 percent) and North Carolina (7,900 jobs, 3.4 percent). The largest percentage gains were in South Dakota (10.5 percent, 2,500 jobs), followed by Utah and Idaho (8.2 percent, 4,500 jobs).
From November to December construction employment decreased in 16 states, increased in 32 states and D.C., and was flat in Nevada and South Dakota. Florida lost the most jobs (-3,400 jobs, -0.6 percent), followed by New York (-2,900 jobs, -0.8 percent) and Pennsylvania (-1,200 jobs, -0.5 percent). The largest percentage decline, 0.9 percent, occurred in Alabama (-900 jobs) and Rhode Island (-200 jobs), followed by New York.
Texas added the most jobs from November to December (10,400 jobs, 1.4 percent), followed by Ohio (5,700 jobs, 2.4%) and Missouri (3,700 jobs, 2.9 percent). West Virginia had the largest percentage gain (4.6 percent, 1,500 jobs), followed by New Mexico (3.2 percent, 1,600 jobs) and Louisiana (3.0 percent, 3,500 jobs).
Association officials said labor shortages threaten to slow the construction industry’s ability to fully recover. They urged public officials to strengthen career and technical education and other programs that expose more people to construction career opportunities. They added that the association was working with its chapters and member firms to recruit more, and more diverse, people into the industry.
“Continued growth in infrastructure, private investment, and housing depends on having enough workers,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Government officials at all levels need to prioritize career and technical education programs that open the door to rewarding construction careers.”