Texas and Arkansas Top List of Yearly Gains, While California and West Virginia Experience Worst Losses; Washington and South Dakota Lead in Monthly Job Increases, While Texas and Alaska Have Largest Declines
Construction employment increased in 42 states in April from a year earlier, while only 24 states added construction jobs from March to April, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released by the Associated General Contractors of America today. Association officials said the monthly figures likely reflect the impact of low unemployment rates and workforce shortages as opposed to a dropoff in recent amounts of construction activity.
"Contractors continue to report strong demand for projects and have added employees in all but a handful of states over the past year," said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. "The fact that employment dipped in April in half the states may reflect an inability to find qualified workers at a time of record-low construction unemployment, not a slowdown in demand."
Between April 2022 and April 2023, 42 states and the District of Columbia added construction jobs, while industry employment declined in seven states and held steady in Hawaii. Texas added the most jobs over the year (28,000 jobs, 3.6 percent), followed by New York (13,400 jobs, 3.5 percent), Indiana (11,200 jobs, 7.3 percent), and Florida (8,600 jobs, 1.4 percent). Arkansas had the largest percentage increase (9.8 percent, 5,500 jobs), followed by Rhode Island, Indiana, Nebraska (6.8 percent, 3,900 jobs), and Idaho (6.3 percent, 4,100). California lost the most jobs (-5,100 jobs, -0.6 percent), while West Virginia had the largest percentage loss (-3.7 percent, -1,200 jobs). Losses also occurred in Connecticut (-1,900 jobs, -3.1 percent), West Virginia (-1,200 jobs, -3.7 percent) and Colorado (-700 jobs, -0.4 percent).
For the month, construction employment increased in 24 states and D.C., declined in 26 states. Washington added the most jobs over the month (4,300 jobs, 1.8 percent), followed by Illinois (2,700 jobs, 1.2 percent), Wisconsin (2,600 jobs, 2.0 percent), and California (2,100 jobs, 0.2 percent). The largest percentage gains occurred in South Dakota (2.7 percent, 700 jobs), followed by Wisconsin, Washington, Arkansas (1.8 percent, 1,100 jobs), and Louisiana (1.4 percent, 1,800 jobs).
Texas experienced the largest decline in construction jobs in April (-8,500 jobs, -1.1 percent), followed by New York (-4,000 jobs, -1.0 percent) and Kentucky (-1,600 jobs, -1.8 percent). Alaska had the largest percentage loss for the month (-4.2 percent, -700 jobs), followed by Rhode Island (-3.4 percent, -800 jobs).
Association officials noted that construction firms continue to pay premium wages that are above the national average for the overall economy to attract workers. But too few workers have been exposed to construction as a career opportunity, largely because federal officials spend only one dollar to support career and technical education compared for every five dollars they spend urging students to go to college. Meanwhile, Washington gridlock on immigration issues has resulted in too few workers coming into the country who can lawfully work in construction.
“Public officials at the state and federal level don’t seem too eager to encourage students to pursue careers in fields like construction,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “If we want the workers we need to rebuild our infrastructure and modernize our economy, we need to invest in construction-focused education.”