Construction employment increased in 171 out of 337 metropolitan areas between February 2011 and February 2012, decreased in 119, and stayed level in 47, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released recently by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials said employment was increasing in many metro areas thanks in large part to growing private-sector demand for construction.
"It is encouraging that the number of metro areas experiencing construction job gains outpaced the number of areas with losses," said Ken Simonson, the association's chief economist. "The increases would be even more widespread if not for public sector budget woes and a shaky homebuilding market."
Atlantic City-Hammonton, N.J., added the highest percentage of new construction jobs (33%, 1,300 jobs) followed by Michigan City-La Porte, Ind., (31%, 400 jobs). Denver-Aurora-Broomfield, Colo., added the most jobs (6,300 jobs, 10%). Other areas adding a large number of jobs included Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif., (4,700 jobs, 5%); Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, Ore.,-Wash., (4,300 jobs, 10%); Indianapolis-Carmel, Ind., (4,100 jobs, 12%) and Philadelphia, Pa., (3,500 jobs, 6%).
The largest job losses were in Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, Ill., (-5,400 jobs, -5%), followed by St. Louis, Mo.,-Ill., (-4,200 jobs, -7%); Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla., (-4,000 jobs, -8%) and New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, La., (-3,600 jobs, -12%). Monroe, Mich., (-32%, -600 jobs) lost the highest percentage. Other areas experiencing large percentage declines in construction employment included Springfield, Mass.,-Conn., (-27%, -2,100 jobs) and Montgomery, Ala., (-17%, -1,000 jobs).
Association officials noted that private sector construction spending shot up by 10% in the past year even as public sector investments in construction activity have dropped by 1%. They said that tight state and local budgets, the winding down of construction activity funded by the stimulus and Base Realignment and Closure programs, and delayed Congressional action on a number of infrastructure bills were all holding back broader construction employment gains.
"As great as it is to see construction jobs being added in so many parts of the country, construction employment remains well below peak levels in virtually every metro area," said the association's CEO, Stephen E. Sandherr. "If public-sector spending continues to decline, it will take a lot longer for most areas to see construction employment levels return to where they were in the middle of the last decade."