Construction employment increased in 30 states between January and February while 19 states added construction jobs during the past 12 months, the Associated General Contractors of America reported in an analysis of state employment data released by the Labor Department. Association officials cautioned, however, that it was too early to tell whether the relatively positive report reflects improving economic conditions or the benefit of warmer weather much of the country experienced in February.
"These are certainly some of the best state-by-state numbers the industry has seen in quite some time," said Ken Simonson, the association's chief economist. "But it is too early to tell whether this is the start of a positive trend or the rebound that comes with a February thaw."
The District of Columbia had the largest one-month percentage increase in employment (5.8 percent, 600 jobs), followed by Connecticut (4.2 percent, 2,100 jobs); Georgia (3.7 percent, 5,000 jobs); and Oregon (2.9 percent, 2,000 jobs). California (15,500 jobs, 2.7 percent) added the most construction jobs between January and February, followed by Georgia; North Carolina (4,500 jobs, 2.7 percent); and Florida (4,400 jobs, 1.3 percent).
Simonson noted that 18 states lost construction jobs between January and February while employment levels remained unchanged in 3 other states. The largest monthly percentage losses occurred in Maine (-3.8 percent, -1,000 jobs); Alaska (-3.1 percent, -500 jobs); Arkansas (-2.8 percent, -1,300 jobs); and North Dakota (-2.8 percent, -600 jobs). Texas lost the most construction jobs (-4,300, -0.7 percent), followed by New York (-4,100 jobs, -1.4 percent); Colorado (-2,700 jobs, -2.4 percent); and Arizona (-2,600 jobs, -2.4 percent).
The largest year-over-year percentage gains occurred in the District of Columbia (15.8 percent, 1,500 jobs); Tennessee (8.6 percent, 8,700 jobs); and Pennsylvania (6.8 percent, 14,300 jobs). Texas (31,500 jobs, 5.6 percent) and Pennsylvania had the largest increases in the number of construction employees, followed by Virginia (8,500 employees, 4.8 percent).
Construction employment declined between February 2010 and 2011 in 32 states, Simonson added. The largest percentage drop occurred in Nevada (-9.4 percent, -5,900 jobs) followed by Wisconsin (-9.0 percent, -8,700 jobs); Georgia (-8.4 percent, -12,800 jobs); and Colorado (-7.5 percent, -8,900 jobs). Florida (-15,800 jobs, -4.5 percent) had the largest number of year-over-year job losses, followed by New York (-14,200 jobs, -4.6 percent) and Georgia.
Association officials cautioned that with total construction spending still declining and the prices contractors pay for most construction materials still rising, the construction industry remains fragile at best. They urged officials in Washington and in state capitals to review and act on the group's recently released construction industry recovery plan "Building a Stronger Future."
"It is hard to see how the broader economy will be able to grow significantly while the construction unemployment rate remains above 20 percent," said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's chief executive officer. "If we can find ways to stimulate private-sector demand, cut red tape and address aging infrastructure, we will put millions to work and boost overall economic growth."