Associated General Contractors of America

Public Spending Cuts Pose Risks to Construction Employment Increases

Construction employment increased in 158 out of 339 metropolitan areas between February 2012 and February 2013, declined in 132 and was stagnant in 49, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released today by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials noted that the industry's long-awaited recovery could prove fleeting if public construction spending continues to decline and a reported immigration reform deal could undermine efforts to recruit skilled workers.

Construction Employment Emerging from Six-Year Slump

“While construction employment continues to decline in many parts of the country, the number of communities experiencing gains continues to expand,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “But the twin threats of additional public sector construction cuts and a looming shortage of certain types of construction workers could hurt the industry just as it is beginning to recover.”

Highest percentage of new construction jobs:

  • Pascagoula, Miss. (51 percent, 1,800 jobs)
  • El Centro, Calif. (23 percent, 300 jobs)
  • Anchorage, Alaska (22 percent, 1,800 jobs)
  • Fargo, N.D. (20 percent, 1,200 jobs)
  • Merced, Calif. (20 percent, 300 jobs)

Most jobs added:

  • Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, Texas (13,200 jobs, 8 percent)
  • Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas (10,700 jobs, 10 percent)
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif. (8,500 jobs, 8 percent)
  • Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas (7,200 jobs, 12 percent)

Largest job losses:

  • Northern Virginia (-3,100 jobs, -5 percent)
  • Cincinnati-Middletown, Ohio-Ky.-Ind. (-2,400 jobs, -7 percent)
  • Raleigh-Cary, N.C. (-2,300 jobs, -8 percent)
  • Charleston, W.V. (-2,100 jobs, -15 percent)
  • Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn (-2,100 jobs, -13 percent)

Highest percentage of jobs lost:

  • Monroe, Mich. (-22 percent, -500 jobs)
  • Atlantic City-Hammonton, N.J. (-20 percent, -1,000 jobs)
  • Rockford, Ill. (-18 percent, -700 jobs)

Association officials noted that the rebound in construction employment in many parts of the country is taking place despite a 17 percent decline in public sector construction spending during the past four years. They added that additional cuts, including $4 billion in construction cuts from the federal sequester, would have a significant impact, especially on firms that specialize in public sector work. They added that reports that an immigration reform proposal that includes severe limits on skilled construction workers would make it hard for recovering firms to find enough skilled workers.

Nonresidential Construction Spending Increased in February 2013

“Between the dismantling of skills-based, vocational, education programs, the aging of the current workforce and years of bad economic news that have discouraged potential entrants from considering careers in construction, the pool of available skilled workers is relatively small,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “This industry could go from having too little work to having too few workers. Thus, it is critical for comprehensive immigration reform to include reasonable options to recruit temporary guest workers when domestic sources are exhausted.”

Labor Shortages in Residential Construction Impeding Housing & Economic Recovery

View construction employment figures by state and rank.

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