During the past year (August 2008 to August 2009), construction employment in the United States saw sharp declines in all but two states, according to an analysis of new state-by-state employment figures released recently by the federal government. Adding 800 construction jobs, North Dakota posted a 4% increase while Louisiana added 4,400 jobs for a 3% jump while the remaining 48 states saw declines — 41 of which experienced double-digit losses. Despite this trend, the analysis, conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America, Arlington, Va., did show that the number of states gaining construction jobs increased slightly in August compared to the previous month.

“Construction employment continues to shrink at an alarming rate,” says Ken Simonson, chief economist for the association. “I don't expect much improvement in construction employment until stimulus money flows more broadly, the federal-aid highway program is renewed, and home building gains momentum.”

Looking at the country as a whole, the five largest percentage losses in construction employment over the year occurred in Arizona (27% or 50,000 jobs), Nevada (25% or 29,500 jobs), and three states with 22% losses (Connecticut down 14,300 jobs, Kentucky down 18,300, and Tennessee down 28,300). When compared to the previous month, Simonson says the construction employment picture was slightly less bleak in August 2009 — with 30 states shedding construction jobs, 16 adding construction jobs, and four states, plus Washington, D.C., remaining stable, compared to 34 states losing and only 14 states adding construction jobs in July.

The most notable gains were a 3% rise in Idaho (1,000 jobs); 2% each in Delaware (500) and Nebraska (800); and slightly more than 1% each in Florida (5,500) and Alaska (200). The largest percentage losses for the month were an 8% decline in Mississippi (4,800 jobs), a 5% decline in Rhode Island (900), and 3% declines each in Ohio (5,700), Tennessee (2,800), and South Carolina (2,600).

“Many more federal, state, and local agencies need to convert stimulus funds into construction contracts to stem the tide of construction job losses,” says Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's CEO. “More importantly, Congress and the administration need to focus on pro-growth policies that will reawaken declining private-sector construction activity.”