Construction employment increased in 26 states this November as a result of warm, dry weather, according to a recent analysis of employment data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, the analysis, conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), Arlington, Va., found construction employment decreased everywhere except North Dakota over the past 12 months.

"It is too early to say if the pickup reflects improving economic conditions or a short-lived break in the weather," says Ken Simonson, chief economist for the association. "Only eight of the states with gains in November had increases the month before."

Simonson notes that from October to November, 23 states and Washington, D.C., shed construction jobs, 26 added construction jobs, and Delaware remained stable. That compares favorably with the month-over-month change from September to October 2009, when 33 states (including Washington, D.C.) lost, 17 added, and one had no change in the number of construction jobs. He also notes that Virginia had the largest total monthly construction job gain (2,900) while Florida had the largest monthly decline (9,200).

The largest monthly percentage gains were a 3.3% rise in Kansas (1,900 jobs); 2.7% in Nebraska (1,300 jobs), 2% in Arkansas (1,000 jobs), 1.9% in Idaho (700 jobs), and 1.8% in South Dakota (400 jobs). The largest percentage losses for the month were a 3.8% decline in Vermont (500 jobs), a 2.8% decline in Washington (4,600 jobs), 2.3% declines in Arizona (3,100 jobs) and New Hampshire (500 jobs), and 2.2% declines in Florida (9,200 jobs) and Hawaii (700 jobs).

Only states with back-to-back employment gains are showing even tentative signs of ending their construction slumps, Simonson stresses. Eight states made that list in the September-to-November period, led by Kansas, with a two-month gain of 5%. West Virginia and Indiana added 4% to their construction rolls over two months and Wisconsin tacked on 3%. There were increases of about 2% over two months in Arkansas, Georgia, and Ohio, and minimal gains both months in Massachusetts.

Meanwhile, the five biggest percentage losses in construction employment over the year occurred in Nevada (24.7% or 27,000 jobs), Arizona (22%, or 37,100 jobs), Tennessee (21.6%, or 28,300 jobs), Kentucky (20.9%, or 17,500 jobs) and Maryland (18.3%, or 31,400 jobs). He notes that 36 states saw double-digit percentage decreases in construction employment for the year, whereas North Dakota experienced an increase of 4.3%, totaling 900 jobs, this past year.

"The last thing construction workers need right now are cuts in infrastructure investments," says Stephen E. Sandherr, AGC's CEO, noting that federal investments in highway and transit projects are currently projected to decline by $15 billion in 2010 compared to this year, a 20% decline. "It would be a tragedy if Washington were to step on the first green shoot this industry has seen in months."

To view the November PPI, download a pdf from the BLS Web site.