Stagnant Construction Employment in 1/3 of Nation's Metro Areas

November 30, 2016

AGC reports that construction employment declined or was stagnant in one-third of metro areas between October 2015 and October 2016 amid diminishing public-sector investments in infrastructure and other civil works, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released Tuesday. Associated General Contractors officials said a new infrastructure proposal being crafted by the incoming Trump administration could, if structured properly, help add more construction jobs in many metro areas.

“Too many construction firms that build vital infrastructure projects are finding less work to bid on today than just a few years ago,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist, noting that spending nationally on public construction dropped by 2.2 percent during the first nine months of 2016 from the same period in 2015. “There is little doubt that many more construction workers would be earning high wages in metro areas around the country if the public sector were investing more in aging infrastructure.”

Construction employment decreased in 73 out of 358 metro areas and was stagnant in 62 areas during the past year, Simonson noted.

The largest job losses were in:

  • Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas (-9,700 jobs, -4 percent
  • Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, Md. (-2,400 jobs, -3 percent)
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif. (-2,100 jobs, -2 percent)
  • Little Rock, Ark. (-1,800 jobs, -10 percent)

The largest percentage declines for the past year were in;

  • Decatur, Ill. (-16 percent, -600 jobs)
  • Cheyenne, Wyo. (-13 percent, -500 jobs)
  • Bloomington, Ill. (-13 percent, -400 jobs).

Construction employment increased in 223 metro areas between October 2015 and October 2016. The largest job gains were in:

  • Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colo. (10,800 jobs, 11 percent)
  • Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Fla. (10,800 jobs, 17 percent)
  • Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Ariz. (9,900 jobs, 10 percent)
  • Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine, Calif. (9,000 jobs, 10 percent)

The largest percentage gains were in:

  • Boise, Idaho (21 percent, 4,000 jobs)
  • El Centro, Calif. (21 percent, 600 jobs
  • Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford
  • Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, Nev. (16 percent, 8,500 jobs)

AGC officials said a new infrastructure investment program under consideration by President-elect Trump that could invest up to $1 trillion has the potential to boost construction employment in many parts of the country. Moreover, a new infrastructure program will create tens of thousands of manufacturing, mining and service-sector jobs as equipment makers, aggregate firms and construction suppliers book higher orders.

“Enacting a significant new infrastructure program will bring immediate and widespread benefits to the economy,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer, noting that the association would also push to make sure any new infrastructure program includes significant, sustained increases in infrastructure investments and ways to pay for them for years to come.