31 States Added Construction Jobs in October, but Employment Fell in 28 States over 12 Months

'Despite a strong pickup in home building, uncertainty about the fiscal cliff appears to be holding back private investment, while public agencies trim construction'

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Construction employment declined in 28 states from October 2011 to October 2012 even as 31 states and Washington D.C. added jobs during the month, according to Associated General Contractors' analysis of Labor Department data.

Association officials noted that residential construction gains were being undermined by broader business uncertainty caused by the threat of the looming fiscal cliff.

"The industry remains stuck in neutral, with close balance each month between the number of states that add or lose construction jobs," said Ken Simonson, the association's chief economist. "Despite a strong pickup in homebuilding and multifamily construction, uncertainty about the fiscal cliff appears to be holding back private investment, while public agencies keep trimming construction budgets."

Among states losing construction jobs during the past year, Delaware lost the highest percentage (-11.0 percent, -2,200 jobs), followed by:

  • Arkansas (-8.4 percent, -3,900 jobs)
  • Alaska (-8.0 percent, -1,200 jobs)

New York lost the most jobs (-12,800, -4.1 percent), followed by:

  • Pennsylvania (-10,400 jobs, -4.6 percent)
  • New Jersey (-7,400, -5.7 percent)
  • Illinois (-6,900 jobs, -3.6 percent)

Simonson noted that 21 states and the District of Columbia added construction jobs between October 2011 and October 2012, while employment was unchanged in Vermont.

The District of Columbia again added the highest percentage of new construction jobs (15.6 percent, 1,900 jobs), followed by:

  • North Dakota (11.8 percent, 3,000 jobs)
  • Nebraska (10.8 percent, 4,400 jobs)

Texas added the most new construction jobs over the past 12 months (46,900 jobs, 8.4 percent), followed by:

  • California (27,700, 5.0 percent)
  • Indiana (7,400, 6.0 percent)

Michigan (-3.7 percent, -4,500 jobs) had the steepest percentage decline among the 18 states that lost construction jobs for the month, followed by:

  • Arkansas (-2.9 percent, -1,300)
  • Idaho (-2.3 percent, -700)
  • Kentucky (-2.1 percent, -1,400)

The largest number of construction job losses in October occurred in Michigan, followed by:

  • Louisiana (-1,500 jobs, -1.2 percent)
  • Kentucky
  • Arkansas

Construction employment levels were unchanged for the month in New Hampshire.

The highest percentage construction employment gains for the month occurred in Alaska (9.5 percent, 1,200 jobs), followed by:

  • District of Columbia (4.4 percent, 600 jobs)
  • New Jersey (3.8 percent, 4,500 jobs)

Texas added the most jobs during the month (13,600 jobs, 2.3 percent), followed by:

  • New Jersey
  • California (4,100 jobs, 0.7 percent)

Simonson noted that the October data was collected before Hurricane Sandy hit the Mid-Atlantic States, so it does not reflect changes in employment caused by the storm.

Association officials continued to urge Congress and the administration to reach an agreement to avoid significant tax hikes and extreme spending cuts that could undermine the nascent economic recovery. They cautioned that an economic slowdown would force many already cash-strapped construction firms to make additional cuts to their workforce.

"If Washington officials can't find a solution to the fiscal cliff, we run the risk of putting the economy into another downward spiral," said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's chief executive officer. "After years of difficult economic conditions, many firms will be forced to downsize if the economy begins to shrink."

View the state employment data by rank and by state.