Construction job gains were more widespread across the country and job losses were generally less severe in July than in June, the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) recently reported in an analysis of state employment data released by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Twenty-six states added construction jobs in July, compared to 19 in June, while six states added construction jobs over the past year and most others are losing far fewer jobs than previously, association officials note.

“Encouraging as it is to see some modest signs of progress, it is increasingly unlikely we’ll keep seeing these kinds of gains over the next few months,” says Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “There is little to indicate that construction will be adding workers to a significant extent any time soon.”

Simonson notes that the largest year-over-year increase was in Kansas, where construction employment rose 6.9% (4,000 jobs), followed by New Hampshire (5%, 1,100 jobs); Oklahoma (1,900 jobs, 2.8%); West Virginia (2.4%, 800 jobs); Alaska (1.9%, 300 jobs); and Arkansas (1.5%, 800 jobs).

The largest percentage job decrease compared to July 2009 was in Nevada, 22.4% (-17,300 jobs), followed by Illinois (14.8%; 32,000 jobs, including many idled by a strike in early July that has since ended); Idaho (13.9%, 4,600 jobs); and Colorado (13.7%, 17,400 jobs). California lost the largest number of jobs (54,400 or 9.1%).

Vermont and Wyoming rebounded from the largest one-month percentage losses in June to the highest monthly percent increase in construction employment in July. Vermont recouped all 600 jobs it had shed (5.5%) and Wyoming added 1,100 jobs (5.4%), followed by Oregon (5.3%, 3,500 jobs); New Mexico (4.0%, 1,700 jobs); and Louisiana (2.8%, 3,500 jobs).

New York added the largest number of jobs in July, seasonally adjusted (1.4%, 4,400 jobs), closely followed by Texas (0.8%, 4,300 jobs). Illinois lost the highest percentage of construction jobs during the past month (7.5%, 14,900 jobs, mostly strike-related); followed by Hawaii (6.6%, 2,000 jobs) and Montana (5.4%, 1,200 jobs).

Simonson cautions that the improved employment picture may be attributable to a bulge in federal stimulus-funded projects that could soon fade. “There are few signs of life in privately funded construction, and state and local budget deficit projections are forcing further cuts in non-stimulus public projects,” he says.

Association officials urge Congress to act on long-stalled infrastructure bills that would build on momentum from the stimulus. “Continued neglect of our aging infrastructure will damage our economic competitiveness and plunge the construction industry into another cycle of layoffs and hardship,” says Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s CEO.

View the DOL construction employment figures by rank or by state.