According to a report from the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), Arlington, Va., construction employment declined in 91 metro areas and showed stagnation in another 24 between February 2020, the last month before the pandemic, and May 2021.
Unlike previous AGC reports on employment levels, which most often noted that the reductions in employment numbers were the result of the lack of available projects for contractors to work on, and thus a lower need for workers to begin with, this report noted that the high number of metro areas losing construction jobs during that time reflected challenges related to procuring construction materials, finding qualified workers and the continuing impacts of early pandemic shutdowns.
The report did note that construction employment had increased in 243 metro areas compared to the February 2020 level. However, while this may seem like a bright spot, AGC also noted that this increase is actually “far fewer than the 320 metros that typically add construction jobs between February and May.”
There were 91 metro areas with lower construction employment in May 2021 than in February 2020. Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas lost the most jobs (30,500 or 13%), and other major losses occurred in New York City (-21,200 jobs, -13%); Midland, Texas (-9,600 jobs, -25%); and Odessa, Texas (-8,300 jobs, -40%).
In terms of percentage declines, Odessa had the largest decline (-40%); followed by Lake Charles, La. (-36%); Midland-Laredo, Texas (-23%); and Longview, Texas (-22%).
Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minn.-Wisc. added the most construction jobs over the 15-month period (11,100 jobs, 14%), followed by Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson (10,900 jobs, 21%); Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights (10,300 jobs, 9%); Seattle-Bellevue-Everett (6,900 jobs, 7%); and Pittsburgh (6,900 jobs, 12%).
In terms of percentage increases, Fargo, N.D.-Minn. had the highest increase (45%); followed by Sierra Vista-Douglas, Ariz. (44%); and Bay City, Mich. (36%).
AGC officials once again noted that many construction firms continue to struggle with issues such as finding qualified workers to hire, rising materials prices and supply chain problems that are leading to delivery delays for key project components.
As a result of these ongoing challenges, AGC is urging the Biden administration and Congress to make efforts to work together to “remove tariffs on key construction materials, to ease supply chain shortages, and to boost investments in career and technical education.”