Increases in stimulus-funded projects and growing demand for single-family construction helped boost monthly construction employment in 29 states between March and April, according to a new analysis of federal employment figures released recently by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) , Arlington, Va. Despite recent gains, 46 states and the District of Columbia lost construction jobs over the past 12 months.
“A gradual turnaround appears to be taking hold after years of construction employment declines,” says Ken Simonson, AGC’s chief economist. “As more stimulus projects get underway and single-family housing starts pick up, we are likely to see the number of states with year-over-year increases grow.”
Seasonally adjusted construction employment rose from March to April in 29 states, decreased in 18, and held steady in three (plus the District of Columbia). According to Simonson, 17 of the states with monthly increases also added construction jobs from February to March. Kansas experienced the highest monthly increase in construction employment (8.7% or 5,000 jobs), followed by North Dakota (6.5% or 1,300 jobs), Wyoming (6% or 1,300 jobs), Oklahoma (4.4% or 2,900 jobs), and Massachusetts (3.8% or 3,900 jobs). On the other side of the spectrum, other states experienced downward trends. For example, Maine posted the highest monthly decline at -7.7% or -1,800 jobs, followed by Vermont (-5.7% or -700 jobs), Rhode Island (-4.3% or -700 jobs), Hawaii (-3.9% or -1,200 jobs), and South Carolina (-3.1% or -2,500 jobs).
Simonson points out that the number of states with year-over-year job gains rose to four, led by a jump of 8.1% or 1,300 jobs in North Dakota. Contractors also added jobs from April 2009 to April 2010 in Kansas, which added 3,800 jobs or 6.5%; Alaska, with a gain of 100 jobs or 0.6%; and Arkansas, with 200 jobs or 0.4%.
The largest annual percentage job losses were in Nevada (28% or 24,300 jobs), Colorado (19% or 26,300 jobs), Vermont (17% or 2,300 jobs), Washington (16% or 26,800 jobs), Idaho (16% or 5,600 jobs), and Maine (16% or 4,000 jobs). The largest number of construction job losses were in California (-92,300 jobs or -14%), Texas (-54,400 jobs or -9%) and Florida (-45,300 jobs or -11%).
Cautioning the industry that the slump is far from over, Simonson says high vacancy rates, delays in passing highway and other infrastructure legislation, and declining state and local tax revenue will continue to provide challenges for the construction market.
“Aside from temporary stimulus projects and a fragile housing market, demand for new construction remains depressed for the foreseeable future,” he says. “As a result, construction employment won’t return to pre-downturn levels for many months.”