Construction employment declined in 160 out of 337 metropolitan areas between September 2011 and September 2012, increased in 125 and was stagnant in 52, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released today by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials said that construction employment in many areas continued to decline as construction activity is put on hold amid uncertainty about federal tax and investment programs and declining public sector demand.

“A lot of project owners appear to be taking a time out until Washington officials can set tax rates for next year and figure out what to do about the planned sequestration cuts,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Few businesses are going to invest in major new projects when they don't even know what they will be paying in taxes next year or what direction the economy will be heading.”

The largest job losses were in Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla., (-6,300 jobs, -12%); followed by Nassau-Suffolk, N.Y., (-5,900 jobs, -9%); Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, Ga., (-5,800 jobs, -6%) and Edison-New Brunswick, N.J., (-4,800 jobs, -13%). Springfield, Mass.-Conn., (-25%, -2,600 jobs) lost the highest percentage. Other areas experiencing large percentage declines in construction employment included Jackson, Miss., (-23%, -2,500 jobs); Anchorage, Alaska, (-22%, -2,300 jobs) and Lansing-East Lansing, Mich., (-19%, -1,200 jobs).

Pascagoula, Miss., added the highest percentage of new construction jobs (31%, 1,500 jobs) followed by Fargo, N.D.-Minn., (17%, 1,300 jobs); Chattanooga, Tenn.-Ga., (15%, 1,300 jobs) and El Centro, Calif., (15%, 200 jobs). Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, Texas, added the most jobs (12,300 jobs, 7%). Other areas adding a large number of jobs included Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Wash., (6,000 jobs, 9%); Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, Mass., (5,200 jobs, 10%); Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, Ariz., (4,500 jobs, 5%) and Salt Lake City, Utah, (3,600 jobs, 10%).

Association officials noted that construction employment would continue to suffer as long as tax and fiscal uncertainty in Washington, D.C., prompted business and other owners to delay planned projects. They added that while recovery and reconstruction efforts following Hurricane Sandy might prompt temporary spikes in construction employment in some metro areas throughout the northeast, the overall impact was unlikely to significantly alter economic conditions for the construction industry.

“We are likely to see localized spikes in construction employment throughout November and the winter as crews are mobilized to rebuild communities damaged by Hurricane Sandy,” said Simonson. “However the overall impact of reconstruction work on construction employment is likely to be minimal, as planned projects in Hurricane damaged communities are put on hold while people rebuild.”

View construction employment figures by state and rank.