Construction employment increased in 26 between July and August and in 35 states for the year, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America of Labor Department data. Association officials cautioned, however, that construction employment remains below peak levels in most states and warned of the potential impact of a halt in federal construction investments.
“While we would all like to see even more robust growth, it is encouraging that most states have a larger construction workforce today than they did a year ago,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “It will take a lot more growth, however, before construction employment levels return to their pre-recession levels in most places.”
South Dakota had the largest one-month percentage gain (6.7 percent, 1,300 jobs), followed by Vermont (3.7 percent, 500 jobs), Wisconsin (3.6 percent, 3,300 jobs) and Connecticut (3.0 percent, 1,600 jobs). California (7,700 jobs, 1.3 percent) added the largest number of jobs for the month, followed by New York (4,900 jobs, 1.6 percent), Florida (4,700, 1.3 percent) and Wisconsin. Employment was stable in Alabama and Maine.
Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia lost construction jobs between July and August. Oklahoma had the steepest percentage drop in construction employment for the month (-4.2 percent, -3,000 jobs), followed by Hawaii (-3.6 percent, -1,200 jobs), Nebraska (-2.7 percent, -1,200 jobs) and Utah (-2.6 percent, -1,900 jobs). Texas lost the largest number of jobs between July and August (-4,900 jobs, -0.8 percent), followed by Illinois (-4,100 jobs, -2.2 percent), Arizona (-3,100 jobs, -2.5 percent) and Oklahoma.
California added the most construction jobs for the year (29,100 jobs, 5.0 percent), followed by Texas (24,200 jobs, 4.1 percent), Florida (19,500 jobs, 5.7 percent) and Louisiana (10,600 jobs, 8.4 percent). Wyoming had the steepest percentage increase (12.8 percent, 2,700 jobs), followed by Mississippi (12.0 percent, 5,700 jobs), Colorado (8.8 percent, 10,100 jobs) and Hawaii (8.8 percent, 2,600 jobs).
Fourteen states and the District of Columbia lost construction jobs between August 2012 and August 2013, while construction employment levels remained unchanged for the year in Vermont. Indiana lost the most jobs over the past year and experienced the steepest rate of decline (-10,100 jobs, -8.1 percent). Other states experiencing large job losses for the year include Ohio (-6,100 jobs, -3.4 percent), North Carolina (-3,500 jobs, -2.1 percent) and Alabama (-2,000 jobs, -2.5 percent). Rhode Island (-4.4 percent, -700 jobs), Montana (-4.4 percent, -1,000 jobs) and the District of Columbia (-3.7 percent, -500 jobs) also experienced steep percentage declines.
Association officials said that much of the industry’s recent growth was coming from a few private sector areas, particularly demand for new housing and energy facilities. Those gains have been strong enough to offset declining public sector investments and weak private sector demand in areas like retail construction. As a result, many construction employers would be particularly hard hit by a sudden halt in federal construction activity.
“The impacts of a sudden halt in discretionary federal construction investments could be quite severe, especially on employment levels in states with a number of federal construction projects underway” Sandherr added.