Construction employment declined in 32 states and the District of Columbia in April even as 29 states added jobs between April 2012 and April 2013, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America of Labor Department data. Association officials noted that construction demand in a number of states appears to be slackening amid federal construction spending cuts and relatively weak private sector demand.
“The industry shows signs of recovering, but employment growth continues to be uneven, with some areas seeing stronger gains even as others continue to contract,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “In addition, recent federal construction spending cuts amid still modest private sector growth is making it hard for the industry to recover in more areas.”
Simonson noted that Illinois had the largest decline in construction employment between March and April (-7,900 jobs, -4.3percent). New York had the second-largest decline in employment (-6,600 jobs, -2 percent) followed by Wisconsin (-3,900 jobs, -4.1 percent). Vermont had the highest percentage decrease in construction employment (-6.3 percent, -900 jobs) followed by Illinois and Wisconsin.
Seventeen states added construction jobs between March and April, while employment was flat in New Hampshire. Florida added the largest number of construction jobs (9,000 jobs, 2.6 percent) while Connecticut had the highest percentage increase (3.9 percent, 2,100 jobs). California added the second-largest number of jobs (7,400 jobs, 1.2 percent) followed by Texas (6,000 jobs, 1 percent). Mississippi had the second-highest percentage increase (3.1 percent, 1,500 jobs) followed by West Virginia (2.9 percent, 1,000 jobs).
Simonson reported that 29 states added construction jobs from April 2012 to April 2013 and 21 states and D.C. states lost workers. Hawaii led all jurisdictions in the percentage of new construction jobs (11.5 percent, 3,300 jobs) followed by Alaska (9.1 percent, 1,500 jobs) and Louisiana (8.1 percent, 10,200 jobs). California added the most new construction jobs over the past 12 months (44,800, 7.7 percent) followed by Texas (41,500 jobs, 7.1 percent).
Among the states losing construction jobs during the past year, Vermont lost the highest percentage (-11.3 percent, -1,700 jobs) followed by South Dakota (-9.6 percent, -2,100 jobs) and Rhode Island (-8.6 percent, -1,400 jobs). Illinois lost the most jobs (-12,900 jobs, -6.8 percent) followed by Ohio (-9,200 jobs, -5.0 percent) and Indiana (-5,600 jobs, -4.4 percent).
Association officials urged Congress and the administration to reconsider its current approach of making indiscriminate, across-the-board cuts to a range of federal construction programs. They said the broader economic impact of declining construction employment in most states would cost more in lost activity and revenue than the cuts were likely to save. They also urged Washington officials to act quickly to enact long-term legislation to fund repairs to locks, waterways and flood protection.
“While the industry ultimately needs broader private sector demand to truly recover, boosting infrastructure investments will certainly help,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's chief executive officer. “The last thing Washington should be doing is taking steps that undermine the sector's nascent recovery.”