Construction Employment Inches Upward

Most states have a few more workers on the job, reports AGC.

March 20, 2013
CDR Staff
Association Activities Forecasts & Statistics

Construction employment expanded in two-thirds of all states in January 2013, as the industry showed signs of emerging from a six-year slump, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) of Labor Department data.

Construction employment increased in 34 states and the District of Columbia from December 2012 to January 2013. In the full year from January 2012 to January, 2013, Texas added the greatest number of construction jobs and the District of Columbia has grown construction employment by the highest percentage year-over-year. At the other end of the spectrum, the largest percentage decline in construction employment has taken place in Arkansas.

For the full year from January 2012 to January 2013, just 24 states and the District of Columbia added construction jobs, 25 states shed workers and one—Wisconsin—had no measurable change. The District of Columbia jumped to the top ranking for percentage of new construction jobs (9.4 percent, 1,200 jobs); followed by North Dakota (9.0 percent, 2,500 jobs); Hawaii (8.0 percent, 2,300 jobs); Alaska (7.2 percent, 1,200 jobs) and Washington (6.0 percent, 8,200 jobs). Texas (28,500 jobs, 5.0 percent) added the most new construction jobs over the past 12 months, followed by California (17,600 jobs, 3.0 percent) and the state of Washington.

Among states losing construction jobs during the past year, Arkansas lost the highest percentage (-10.5 percent, -5,100 jobs), followed by Rhode Island (-8.0 percent, -1,300 jobs); Montana (-7.2 percent, -1,700 jobs) and South Dakota (-6.4 percent, -1,400 jobs). Illinois lost the most jobs (-9,800 jobs, -5.0 percent); followed by Virginia (-7,500 jobs, -4.2 percent); Ohio (-5,200 jobs, -2.8 percent) and Arkansas.

AGC Chief Economist Ken Simonson says 34 states and the District of Columbia added construction jobs between December and January, while employment slipped in 14 states and held steady in two states.

AGC officials express the opinion that the industry’s recovery remains fragile and that current and looming federal budget cuts threaten to drag down construction employment in numerous states.

“These results show that contractors are finding work in more parts of the country than they have for many months,” says Simonson. “Further gains appear likely but could be derailed if lawmakers continue to make indiscriminate cuts to key construction and infrastructure programs.”

“Construction spending has been rising for two full years but contractors have been cautious about adding workers until they knew the upturn would last,” Simonson adds. “In 2013, both residential and private nonresidential construction should rise enough to offset a further slowdown in public work, and contractors will be looking for more workers.”
Association officials said the cuts in federal funding for construction triggered both by the so-called sequestration that took effect in early March 2013 and by spending bills now advancing in Congress would fall hardest on construction employers in states that have a large federal government presence.

“Canceling construction investments will ultimately worsen the deficit by undermining the nation’s growth and competitiveness,” says Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's chief executive officer. “Meanwhile, the burden falls unfairly on states that host large military facilities, as well as states with extensive federal lands, research and energy installations.”