Construction Industry Adds Jobs But Recovery Remains Fragile

'Growing demand for a range of construction services and better weather helped boost construction employment in most states in April'

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Construction firms added jobs in 39 states and the District of Columbia over the past 12 months and in 29 states and D.C. between March and April according to an analysis today by the Associated General Contractors of America of Labor Department data. Association officials welcomed the mostly positive figures but cautioned that the industry’s recovery remained fragile, with construction employment levels below prior peaks in every state except North Dakota.

“Growing demand for a range of construction services and better weather helped boost construction employment in most states in April,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “But we are still a long way away from getting back to the kind of employment levels the industry experienced nearly a decade ago.”

Florida led all states in both percentage and total construction gains with a 12.1 percent rise and 43,300 new jobs between April 2013 and April 2014. Other states adding a high percentage of new construction jobs for the past 12 months included:

  • North Dakota (11 percent, 3,400 jobs)
  • Nevada (9.4 percent, 5,400 jobs)
  • Utah (8.4 percent, 6,100 jobs)

After Florida, California added the most new construction jobs for the year (39,000 jobs, 6.2 percent), followed by Texas (23,900 jobs, 3.9 percent) and Pennsylvania (9,800 jobs, 4.3 percent).

Ten states shed construction jobs during the past 12 months, while employment was unchanged in Wyoming. New Jersey lost the highest percent, -6.8, and the most jobs, -9,300. Other states losing a high number of jobs :

  • New Mexico (-2,000 jobs, -4.8 percent)
  • Alabama (-1,800 jobs, -2.2 percent)
  • Virginia (-1,700 jobs, -1 percent)

After New Jersey, the states with the highest percentage decline in construction employment were New Mexico, West Virginia (-3.7 percent, -1,300 jobs) and Alabama.

Texas (7,500 jobs, 1.2 percent) added the most jobs between March and April, followed by California (7,100 jobs, 1.1 percent); Pennsylvania (6,500 jobs, 2.8 percent) and Florida (4,800 jobs, 1.2 percent). Rhode Island (5.5 percent, 900 jobs) had the highest percentage increase for the month, followed by Iowa (4.6 percent, 3,100 jobs); the District of Columbia (4.5 percent, 600 jobs) and Pennsylvania.

Twenty states lost construction jobs for the month with Virginia (-3,100 jobs, -1.7 percent) losing the most. Other states experiencing large monthly declines in total construction employment included:

  • New Jersey (-2,800 jobs, -2.1 percent)
  • North Carolina (-2,500 jobs, -1.4 percent)
  • Minnesota (-2,200 jobs, -2 percent)
  • Arizona (-2,200 jobs, -1.8 percent)

Maine (-3.4 percent, -900 jobs) experienced the highest monthly percentage decline, followed by New Mexico (-2.7 percent, -1,100 jobs); West Virginia (-2.1 percent, -700 jobs) and New Jersey.

Association officials noted that Congressional action on vital infrastructure measures could help sustain the industry’s recovery. A Senate committee approved new surface transportation legislation that will make it easier for state and local officials to fund road, bridge and transit construction projects. Meanwhile, a House-Senate conference committee released a final version of a Water Resources Reform & Development Act that will fund waterways, port, dam and other important infrastructure projects once it becomes law.

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“The industry’s recovery will remain on track if these two infrastructure measures continue to receive the kind of strong bipartisan support we saw this week,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “But if members of Congress really want to help the economy, they need to act quickly to make sure we don’t run out of federal road and bridge repair money by this summer, as the government predicts.”

View the state employment data by rank, by state.