Construction employment expanded in 215 metro areas, declined in 80 and was stagnant in 44 between June 2013 and June 2014, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). AGC officials noted that uncertainty about a range of federal infrastructure and construction programs could weigh on future growth for the sector.
"Contractors have been expanding their work force in about two-thirds of the country for several months in a row," said Ken Simonson, AGC's chief economist. "Some metro areas are adding workers at a strong clip, but the gains remain modest and sporadic in many localities."
Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas added the largest number of construction jobs in the past year (11,700 jobs, 10 percent), followed by Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif. (10,000 jobs, 9 percent), Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, Ill. (8,200 jobs, 7 percent) and Baton Rouge, La. (5,900 jobs, 13 percent). The largest percentage gains occurred in Monroe, Mich. (29 percent, 600 jobs), Lake Charles, La. (25 percent, 2,700 jobs), Pascagoula, Miss. (25 percent, 1,500 jobs) and El Centro, Calif. (23 percent, 500 jobs).
The largest job losses from June 2013 to June 2014 were in Bethesda-Rockville-Frederick, Md. (-4,200 jobs, -13 percent), followed by Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, Ariz. (-2,900 jobs, -3 percent), Gary, Ind. (-2,300 jobs, -12 percent) and Putnam-Rockland-Westchester, N.Y. (-1,800 jobs, -6 percent). The largest percentage decline for the past year was in Cheyenne, Wyo. (-18 percent, -700 jobs), followed by Bethesda-Rockville-Frederick, Vineland-Millville-Bridgeton, N.J. (-13 percent, -300 jobs), Gary, and Steubenville-Weirton, Ohio-W.V. (-12 percent, -200 jobs).
El Centro experienced the largest percentage increase (23 percent, 500 jobs higher than June 2013) among the 26 metro areas that topped their prior June construction employment highs. Baton Rouge added the most jobs since reaching its prior June peak in 2013 (5,900 jobs, 13 percent). Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale (-93,700 jobs, -50 percent) experienced the largest drop in total construction employment compared to its prior June peak (reached in 2006) while Lake Havasu City-Kingman, Ariz. experienced the largest percentage decline compared to its June 2006 peak (-68 percent, -5,400 jobs).
AGC officials noted that signs of uncertainty about a range of federal infrastructure and construction programs could undermine future construction employment growth. They urged Congress to quickly pass a "continuing resolution" that would set federal spending levels for next year and to enact long-term surface transportation legislation. Having these measures in place would make it easier for many construction firms to make hiring, purchasing and expansion plans, they added.
"Even as the overall economy continues to recover, many firms that work on federally-funded projects are having a hard time making hiring, equipment purchasing and expansion plans," said Stephen E. Sandherr, AGC's CEO. "It is hard to make sound business decisions when you don't know how much work will be available in the near future."