Construction employment continued to suffer significant declines in the majority of metropolitan areas, according to a the latest analysis of federal employment data released by the Associated General Contractors of America, Arlington, Va. The figures reflect continued weak private, state, and local demand as well as a lack of long-term projects caused by stalled federal infrastructure bills, association officials noted.

“With current demand soft and chances of a turnaround months away, construction firms are unwilling to expand payrolls,” says Ken Simonson, the association's chief economist. “Contractors know there's nothing to take up the slack once the stimulus runs its course.”

According to Simonson, construction employment declined in 294 of 337 metropolitan areas tracked between May 2009 and May 2010, increased in 16 metro areas, and held steady in another 27. He added that 11 metro areas had lost more than 10,000 construction jobs each during the past 12 months, while one in three cities added 1,000 or more jobs during the same period.

Chicago lost the most construction jobs between May 2009 and 2010 (-21,900 or -16%), followed by Houston, Texas (-18,400 jobs or -10%) and Los Angeles-Long Beach (-17,300 jobs or -15%). Chico, Calif., experienced the largest percentage decrease in construction employment (-33% or -900 jobs), followed by Flagstaff, Ariz. (-32% or -700 jobs); Pascagoula, Miss. (-31% or -1,900 jobs); Monroe, Mich. (-29% or -700 jobs); and Lewiston, along the Idaho-Washington border (-25% or -300 jobs).

Columbus, Ohio, added the highest number of construction jobs during the past year (1,500 jobs or 5%), followed by Kansas City, Kan. (1,100 jobs or 6%) and Oklahoma City (1,000 jobs or 4%). Two metro areas recorded double-digit percentage gains in construction employment: Eau Claire, Wis. (17% or 500 jobs) and Haverhill-North Andover-Amesbury along the New Hampshire-Massachusetts border (11% or 400 jobs).