Construction firms added jobs in 38 states over the past 12 months, although job gains leveled off between February and March, according to the Associated General Contractors' analysis of Labor Department data. Association officials said the ongoing year-over-year pickup points to the urgency of revitalizing and initiating programs to encourage workers and graduating students to get construction careers.
"The widespread gains in employment from a year ago are encouraging, given the tough winter many states endured right through March," said Ken Simonson, the association's chief economist. "The never-ending winter of 2014 may account for the dip in the number of states that added construction jobs in the latest month, but it is also possible that single-family homebuilders are not adding workers as some forecasters expected."
Simonson said he expects private nonresidential construction to continue adding workers, especially in states with large oil and gas activity, such as North Dakota, Louisiana, Colorado, Texas and Oklahoma. He cited apartment construction as another growth area but said single-family homebuilding may stall at a relatively low level.
Florida again led all states in both percentage and total construction gains with an 11.5 percent rise and 41,000 new jobs between March 2013 and March 2014. Other states adding a high percentage of new construction jobs for the past 12 months included Oregon (10.8 percent, 7,800 jobs) and Minnesota (10.4 percent, 10,200 jobs). After Florida, California added the most new construction jobs for the year (37,100 jobs, 5.9 percent), followed by Texas (17,100 jobs, 2.8 percent) and Minnesota.
Eleven states and the District of Columbia shed construction jobs between March 2013 and March 2014, while employment was constant in Alaska. The largest number of losses occurred in New Jersey (-4,600, -3.4 percent), followed by Kentucky (-1,900 jobs, -2.8 percent) and West Virginia (-1,700 jobs, -4.9 percent). West Virginia had the highest percentage decline in construction employment, followed by New Jersey and the District of Columbia (-2.9 percent, -400 jobs).
Two dozen states and D.C. added jobs between February and March, led by Ohio (4,600 jobs, 2.5 percent), which rebounded from even greater job losses in the previous, winter-wracked month. North Dakota had the highest percentage increase (3.4 percent, 1,100 jobs) for the month. Louisiana ranked second in the number and percentage of monthly job gains (4,300 jobs, 3.3 percent).
Construction employment declined in 23 states and remained unchanged in Montana, South Dakota and Wyoming between February and March. Texas lost the most jobs (-5,300 jobs, -0.8 percent), followed by Illinois (-2,800, -1.4 percent). New Mexico experienced the highest monthly percentage decline (-4.2 percent, -1,800 jobs), followed by Alaska (-2.9 percent, -500 jobs) and Kentucky (-2.2 percent, -1,500 jobs).
Association officials said that the construction industry is prepared to add many more workers but that training programs and other initiatives to draw workers into construction need to be beefed up. The association recently unveiled a multi-point workforce development plan to address these needs.
"With each passing month, it becomes clearer that contractors in most states are hiring both experienced and new workers," said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's chief executive officer. "It is essential for federal, state and local officials to clear roadblocks and adopt policies that will attract more workers into the industry."