Construction employment increased in 30 states in March as the industry expanded but at a slower pace than in February, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America of Labor Department data. Association officials cautioned, however, that many states remain vulnerable to construction cutbacks from newly enacted and proposed decreases in federal funding for infrastructure.
“A majority of states are adding jobs month by month and year-over-year,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “The expansion appears poised to continue for residential and private nonresidential construction. But investment in infrastructure and public buildings is still on a downward path. That will keep employment down in states with a large federal presence.” He added that construction employment nationwide rose for the 10th consecutive month in March, by 18,000, following an increase of 49,000 in February.
Simonson noted that hiring for recovery work from Hurricane Sandy may be the reason New York had the largest increase in construction employment between February and March (6,000 jobs, 1.9 percent) and Connecticut had the largest percentage increase (5.7 percent, 2,900 jobs). Florida added the second-largest number of construction jobs for the month (5,500, 1.6 percent), while Arkansas was second in percentage increase (4.5 percent, 2,000 jobs).
Twenty states and the District of Columbia lost construction jobs between February and March. The largest losses occurred in Missouri (-3,400 jobs, -3.2 percent). Ohio had the second-highest loss of jobs (-3,300, -1.9 percent), followed by Michigan, which had the second-highest percentage decline (-2.4 percent, -3,100 jobs).
Simonson reported that 31 states and D.C. added construction jobs from March 2012 to March 2013 and 19 states lost workers. Alaska led all jurisdictions in the percentage of new construction jobs (11.4 percent, 1,900 jobs); followed by Hawaii (10.7 percent, 3,100 jobs); Utah (8.7 percent, 6,000 jobs) and Louisiana (8.6 percent, 10,700 jobs). California added the most new construction jobs over the past 12 months (41,000, 7.1 percent), followed by Texas (39,800 jobs, 6.9 percent).
Among the 19 states losing construction jobs during the past year, Rhode Island lost the highest percentage (-9.6 percent, -1,600 jobs); followed by Montana (-8.1 percent, -1,900 jobs) and South Dakota (-7.7 percent, -1,700 jobs). Ohio lost the most jobs (-9,500 jobs, -5.2 percent); followed by Illinois (-8,500 jobs, -4.4 percent) and North Carolina (-5,300 jobs, -3.0 percent).
Association officials said the cuts in federal funding for construction enacted in March would push employment totals lower in states with large military and federal civilian facilities. They urged policy makers to make infrastructure investment a priority even while cutting other categories of federal spending to bring down deficits.
“Shortchanging investment in the nation’s infrastructure hurts not just construction workers but anyone who relies on good roads, air travel or drinking water,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's chief executive officer. “We need to make urgent repairs and new investments in transportation and environmental infrastructure before our aging and overused systems begin to drag on economic growth.”