AGC Tracks Construction Job Growth

Construction employment has expanded in 56 out of 337 metropolitan areas between August 2009 and August 2010, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released by the Associated General Contractors of America, Arlington, Va. More cities added construction jobs during the past year than at any point since September 2008, indicating that the worst of the industry’s job losses may be over, association officials noted.

Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist, noted that Kansas City, Kan., added more construction jobs than any other metro area with 2,500 jobs or 13 percent. Hanford-Corcoran, Calif., added the highest percentage with 22 percent or 200 jobs. Other areas adding jobs include Pittsburgh, Pa., with 2,000 jobs or 4 percent; Calvert-Charles-Prince Georges Counties, Md., with 1,200 jobs or 3 percent; Chattanooga, Tenn., with 700 jobs or 8 percent; and Eau Claire, Wis., with 600 jobs or 19 percent.

Simonson added that 245 metro areas lost construction jobs while construction employment was unchanged in another 36. The Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, Ill., area lost more construction jobs, 22,600 jobs or 16 percent, than any other metro area, even after a construction strike ended in July. Napa, Calif., lost the highest percentage with 900 jobs or 30 percent. Other areas experiencing large declines in construction employment included: Las Vegas, Nev., with 13,500 jobs or 22 percent; Houston, Texas, with 11,200 jobs or 6 percent; Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Wash., with 9,100 jobs or 12 percent; and Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif., with 8,500 jobs or 13 percent.

Association officials said that even as the employment outlook improves in a growing number of metropolitan areas, construction unemployment remains nearly double the national average. They added that Congress is now a year late in passing major highway and transit investment legislation as well as other key infrastructure bills. Federal inaction, combined with ongoing weak private, state and local demand, will continue to undermine chances of a broader construction industry recovery, officials noted.

“The fact that the best news the industry has had in years is that we’re not losing jobs as fast as we were is a reflection of how hard hit construction has been during the downturn,” said Stephen Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Too many construction workers remain unemployed while Congress lets long-delayed infrastructure legislation idle.”

The AGC has compiled construction employment figures by metro area or by rank.