Construction employment declined in 32 states and Washington, D.C., from November to December, according to analysis of federal data from the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). AGC officials attribute the decline to weather conditions in parts of the country. Despite the decline, employment increased in 34 states year-over-year.
"While the year-over-year numbers are encouraging, we want to make sure the monthly declines are more about the weather than they are a sudden downturn in demand," said Ken Simonson, AGC’s chief economist. "While we will have to wait for more data to understand where the market is heading, the industry could certainly benefit from more private-sector activity and public-sector investments."
Mississippi led all states with an 18 percent rise (8,500 jobs) in construction employment between December 2012 and December 2013. The state ranked 18th out of 50 states plus D.C. between November and December, with no net gain or loss. South Dakota topped the monthly rankings, adding 3.4 percent (700 construction jobs), and added 4.9 percent (1,100 jobs) over 12 months. On the other hand, Indiana (-4.5 percent, -5,500 jobs) and D.C. (-5.1 percent, -700 jobs) had the steepest 12-month declines, Simonson pointed out.
States with strong 12-month percentage gains besides Mississippi included Connecticut (11.6 percent, 5,800 jobs), Florida (8.4 percent, 28,800 jobs) and Wyoming (8.3 percent, 1,800 jobs). California added the most jobs over the year (28,900, 4.8 percent), followed by Florida, Texas (13,500, 2.3 percent), Georgia (9,900, 7.1 percent) and Mississippi.
A total of 15 states plus D.C. shed construction jobs between December 2012 and December 2013, while employment was constant in Nebraska. The largest number of losses occurred in Pennsylvania (-7,600, -3.3 percent), followed by Indiana, North Carolina (-3,700, -2.2 percent) and New Jersey (-3,300, -2.5 percent).
For the month, 17 states added construction jobs, 32 and D.C. lost jobs, and employment held steady in Mississippi. In addition to South Dakota, the steepest one-month gains occurred in Alaska (2.8 percent, 500 jobs) and Alabama (2.6 percent, 2,000 jobs). Ohio added the most construction jobs in December (4,000, 2.3 percent), followed by New York (3,100, 1.0 percent) and Texas (3,400, 0.6 percent). The steepest losses for the month occurred in West Virginia (-5.0 percent, -1,800 jobs), New Jersey (-4.9 percent, -6,500 jobs) and Maine (-4.1 percent, -1,100 jobs). New Jersey lost the most jobs over the month, followed by Illinois (-4,500, -2.4 percent) and Missouri (-4,200, -3.7 percent).
AGC officials noted that even as the industry experienced some modest growth in 2013, the December numbers are cause for concern. They said that while many firms reported being slowed for the month by wintry weather. But they said Washington officials could help support growth for the industry and broader economy by ensuring federal transportation investments do not stop as early as this summer and passing other critical infrastructure measures.
"The President has a great opportunity tonight to call for long-term fixes to the funding challenges that once-again threaten highway and transit investments this summer," said Stephen E. Sandherr, the AGC's CEO. "There are few better ways to protect our economy and help all workers than investing in the infrastructure that all American businesses rely on to succeed."