February Construction Spending, Jobs Gain

April 2, 2019

Construction spending totaled $1.32 trillion in February, up 1.0 percent from January and a gain of 1.1 percent compared to February 2018. Construction employment increased in 65 percent of metro areas, according to the Associated General Contractors.

“The spending increase in February follows an extremely strong 2.5-percent gain in January, which aligns with contractors’ reports that they were busy early in the year and expect to stay that way through 2019,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “The major challenge they face is finding enough workers.”

Public construction spending increased 3.6 percent and 11.5 percent year-over-year. Highway and street construction jumped 22.8 percent from last year. Educational construction rose 5.5 percent year-over-year.

Private nonresidential spending slipped 0.5 percent for the month, and fell 0.1 percent from a year ago, while residential spending climbed 0.7 percent from January to February, but declined 3.4 percent from February 2018. Power construction gained 1.4 percent year-over-year. Commercial construction declined 6.6 percent. Manufacturing construction increased 3.4 percent, and office construction rose 4.8 percent. New multifamily construction spending rose 7.5 percent year-over-year, but new single-family construction spending decreased by 7.1 percent.

Construction employment grew in 232 of 358 metro areas between February 2018 and February 2019, declined in 73, and was unchanged in 53, according to the association’s  analysis. Industry employment set a new high for February in 62 metro areas.

The Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Arizona, metro area added the most construction jobs during the past year (11,900 jobs, up 10 percent). The largest percentage gain occurred in Monroe, Michigan (28 percent, 500 jobs).

The largest job losses between February 2018 and February 2019 occurred in Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine, California, (-3,300 jobs, -3 percent). The largest percentage decrease took place in Danville, Illinois (-20 percent, -100 jobs).

Association officials said contractors in many metros can’t find enough trained workers, and urged federal officials to invest more in career and technical education.

“Contractors nationwide report difficulty finding enough workers to keep pace with the strong demand for projects,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, CEO. “Expanding high school career and technical education programs will expose students to the rewarding career paths offered by high-paying construction jobs.”

Source: AGC