Construction Employment Declines in Most Metropolitan Areas

Construction employment increased between April 2009 and 2010 in more metro areas (17) than at any point during the past 12 months, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released by the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America. However, AGC officials noted that even though construction job losses were less widespread than in previous months, the industry is still shedding workers in most metropolitan areas.

“Construction employment is clearly stabilizing in a growing list of metro areas,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Unfortunately, too many construction workers are losing jobs in too many metro areas.”

Simonson noted that construction employment declined in 292 metropolitan areas between April 2009 and 2010 and held steady in another 28 areas. He added that half the declines were less than 10 percent, while in previous months, double-digit decreases predominated.

Five metro areas recorded double-digit percentage gains in construction employment, including Eau Claire, Wisc. (24 percent, 600 jobs); Haverhill-North Andover-Amesbury along the New Hampshire/Massachusetts border (14 percent, 500 jobs); Bismarck, N.D. (13 percent, 400 jobs); Bay City, Mich. (11 percent, 100 jobs); and Hanford-Corcoran, Calif. (11 percent, 100 jobs).

Monroe, Mich., experienced the largest percentage decrease in construction employment between April 2009 and 2010 (46 percent, 1,300 jobs). Other metro areas with high rates of construction employment losses included Flagstaff, Ariz. (32 percent, 700 jobs); Las Vegas, Nev. (31 percent, 21,500 jobs); Napa, Calif. (29 percent, 900 jobs); and El Centro, Calif. (29 percent, 500 jobs). Chicago lost the most construction jobs (17 percent, 23,100).

The construction economist said there was little reason to expect broad gains in construction employment for the foreseeable future.

“While the stimulus, military construction and home building should help, overall construction demand is likely to remain weak well into 2011 for most regions,” Simonson said.

The AGC stated that without Congressional and White House action on overdue infrastructure programs, including transportation, aviation and water legislation, construction employment would continue to suffer.

“Washington shouldn’t get a free pass for neglecting infrastructure programs simply because 5 percent of communities are finally adding construction jobs,” said Stephen Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer.

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