Construction firms added jobs in 39 states from July 2013 to July 2014 and in 34 states from June to July, according to an analysis of Labor Department data by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials said the employment gains are good news, but that the pipeline of skilled craft workers, supervisors and other employees appears to be emptying rapidly.
"The overall trend in construction employment has been very consistent in 2014, with more than three-fourths of states adding jobs each month on a year-over-year basis," said Ken Simonson, the association's chief economist. "However, growing numbers of contractors say they are having trouble finding skilled workers or subcontractors that can supply such workers."
Nevada experienced the largest percentage increase in construction employment between July 2013 and July 2014 (13.4 percent, 7,500 construction jobs), followed by Delaware (13.3 percent, 2,600 jobs) and Florida (11.1 percent, 40,600 jobs). Florida again led all states in the number of construction jobs added in the latest 12 months, followed by Texas (23,600 jobs, 3.8 percent) and California (22,600 jobs, 3.6 percent).
The District of Columbia and 11 states shed construction jobs during the past twelve months, with New Jersey again losing the highest percentage and total (-6.5 percent, -8,900 jobs). Other states that lost a high percentage of jobs include West Virginia (-5.8 percent, -2,000 jobs), Mississippi (-5.6 percent, -2,900 jobs) and Arizona (-4.8 percent, -5,900 jobs). Arizona lost the second-highest number of construction jobs during the year, followed by Mississippi, then West Virginia.
Delaware had the largest percentage gain (5.7 percent, 1,200 jobs) among the 34 states that added construction workers to payrolls between June and July. Other states adding large percentages of workers in the month included Alabama (4.9 percent, 3,800 jobs), Kentucky (3.4 percent, 2,200 jobs), New Mexico (3.1 percent, 1,200 jobs), and Virginia (2.6 percent, 4,700 jobs). Virginia added the most workers during the month, followed by Florida (4,400 jobs, 1.1 percent), Texas (4,000 jobs, 0.6 percent) and Alabama.
Fifteen states and D.C. lost construction jobs between June and July, while construction employment was unchanged in Rhode Island. California lost the most construction jobs during the month (-6,400 jobs, -1.0 percent). Other states with large monthly declines in total construction employment included New York (-3,500 jobs, -1.1 percent), Georgia (-1,500 jobs, -1.0 percent), Nebraska (-1,400 jobs, -3.0 percent) and Kansas (-1,100 jobs, -1.8 percent). Nebraska had the highest monthly percentage decline, followed by West Virginia (-1.8 percent, -600 jobs) and Kansas.
Association officials said it is encouraging that a large majority of states added construction jobs for the year and the month. However, they cautioned that construction firms in many parts of the country appear to be experiencing varying amounts of labor shortages. They said that while worker shortages appear most severe in fast-growing states like Colorado and Texas, there is still time for elected officials to act on the association's workforce development suggestions before shortages become more widespread.
"We are at real risk of going from a situation where firms couldn't hire because there wasn't enough demand to firms not being able to hire because there aren't enough qualified workers," said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's chief executive officer.