Unemployment drops slightly nationally; metropolitan areas still hurting

Construction employment saw a slight increase in June as the national construction unemployment rate dropped to 17.4 percent, down 1.8 percent from May and up 9.2 percent from June 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However hopeful the slight increase in employment nationally, only ten metropolitan areas saw any increase in employment the past year, according to data from the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC).

AGC says that out of the 352 metropolitan areas surveyed, ten experienced increases while nine experienced no change. The areas with the greatest increases were Columbus, Indiana, with a 31.6 percent increase, and the Wierton-Steubenville areas of West Virginia and Ohio with a 16.7 percent increase. Other areas with increases were parts of Louisiana, Michigan, Washington, Oklahoma, Texas, Iowa and Arkansas. Only two states saw increases in employment since June 2008 and 14 saw increases since May 2009.

Out of the areas surveyed, 333 experienced a decline in construction employment over the past year, says AGC. Areas with the greatest declines in employment over the past year were Pascagoula, Mississippi, with a 35.8 percent decline, and Reno-Sparks, Nevada, with a 33.3 percent decline.

“Construction workers remain, unfortunately, on the leading edge of job losses during this recession,” says Ken Simonson, chief economist for AGC. “While other sectors of the economy may have been hit hard, construction employment has been devastated.”

Over the past year, construction unemployment has risen to more than 1.6 million, showing a loss of more than 800,000 jobs since June 2008 and a loss of more than one million jobs since 2007.