Some states see increase in construction employment

Construction employment rose in some states from April to May this year, according to Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America. Simsonson’s analysis of BLS data showed that 18 states added construction jobs, although the number of construction jobs continued to decline nationally.

Simonson says that North Dakota saw the biggest increase between April and May with a 9-percent rise, followed by Mississippi with a 4 percent increase. South Dakota and Indiana both had a 3 percent increase while West Virginia, Vermont, Wisconsin and Nebraska each experienced a 2-percent rise.

Over the past year, the states with the largest increase in construction employment were Louisiana, with a 2.7 percent increase, and North Dakota, with a 3.8 percent increase.

Despite these localized gains, national construction employment dropped by 59,000 from April to May, Simonson noted. States that were hit especially hard over the past year include Arizona, with a 28 percent decline in construction employment, Kentucky and Connecticut with a 21 percent decline each and Nevada and Tennessee with a 20 percent decline each.

Only nine of the 311 metro areas analyzed in the BLS statistics showed any gain in construction jobs. The three cities with the largest increase were Baton Rouge, Louisiana (7.3 percent), Grand Junction, Colorado (5.1 percent) and Odessa, Texas (3.9 percent). The three cities with the sharpest declines include Pascagoula, Mississippi (-40 percent), Redding, California (-37 percent) and Reno-Sparks, Nevada (-31 percent).

Simonson noted that getting more stimulus money flowing could help save many construction jobs.

“Whether more states and metros join the ‘win column’ in adding construction jobs depends largely on how quickly all levels of government turn stimulus money into contracts,” says Simonson. “While the stimulus is starting to help, it is not keeping pace with overall declines in construction activity in most places.”

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) currently offers more than $135 billion worth of construction-related funding. Transportation receives the most amount of funding at $49 billion, $28 billion of which is set aside for highway projects. ARRA offers up to $35 billion for building construction, $30 billion for energy and technology and $21 billion for water and environment-centered construction projects.

“Local governments must avoid imposing their own Buy American standards, states must work promptly to hold bid lettings and federal agencies need to clarify reporting requirements,” says Simonson.

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