Construction employment patterns diverged across the country in April as 19 states plus Washington, D.C., added jobs over the past year even as losses deepened in others, the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) reported in an analysis of state employment data released by the Labor Department. Association officials said the figures reflect an uneven and unsteady construction industry recovery that could be undermined by looming cost increases and public sector funding cuts.

“It is good to see more states adding construction jobs for the year in April than at any point since February 2008,” says Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “However, most of the gains were modest at best while the losses were more severe in more states than last month.” Annual construction employment gains were less than 3% in all but four states while four states experienced double-digit construction job losses, whereas only one state — West Virginia — had such steep annual losses last month.

Of the 20 locations with year-over-year increases, the largest percentage gains occurred in Oklahoma (4.8%, 3,200 jobs); followed by Texas (4.1%, 23,200 jobs); Tennessee (3.1%, 3,300 jobs); Wyoming (3.1%, 700 jobs); and Maine (2.5%, 600 jobs). Texas, Tennessee, and Oklahoma added the largest number of jobs; followed by Indiana (1,500 jobs, 1.3%) and Pennsylvania (1,500 jobs, 0.7%). Massachusetts had no change in construction employment from April 2010 to April 2011.

Of the 30 states with decreases over the year, the largest percentage drop in construction employment took place in Minnesota (-14.1%, -12,900 jobs); followed by Nevada (-11.6%, -7,100 jobs); Wisconsin (-11.3%, -11,000 jobs); and Colorado (-11.2%, -13,100 jobs). Florida lost the largest number of jobs (-20,400 jobs, -5.8%); followed by New York (-16,100 jobs, -5.1%); Colorado; Minnesota; and Georgia (-12,700 jobs, -8.4%).

Simonson notes that 22 states plus Washington, D.C., adds jobs during the month, while 27 states lost jobs. Construction employment held steady in Wyoming. West Virginia had the largest percentage rise (7.1%, 2,100 jobs); followed by Kansas (3.7%, 1,900 jobs); Arizona (3.6%, 3,900 jobs); Alaska (2.5%, 400 jobs); and South Carolina (2.5%, 1,900 jobs). Arizona added the largest number of jobs; followed by New York (2,200 jobs, 0.7%); West Virginia; Washington (2,000 jobs, 1.4%); and Kansas and South Carolina.

The largest monthly percentage losses occurred in Minnesota (-6.8%, -5,700 jobs); followed by Nevada (-5.6%, -3,200 jobs); Colorado (-4.1%, -4,400 jobs); Rhode Island (-3.9%, -600 jobs); and Michigan (-3.9%, -4,900 jobs). The largest number of construction job losses over the month was in Texas (-9,300 jobs, -1.6%).

Association officials cautioned that the fragile construction employment recovery some states are experiencing could be undermined by a pending federal rule that requires many local governments as well as state and federal governments to withhold 3% of contractors’ earning for publicly funded work. Combined with federal state and local budget costs, the “Three Percent Rule” is likely to undermine the recover before it starts, officials said.

“Forcing contractors to do less work and earn less for that work isn’t a good way to boost construction employment,” says Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s CEO.