Construction employment expanded in 218 metro areas, declined in 72 and was stagnant in 49 between May 2013 and May 2014, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials warned that job losses could spread to more metros unless policy makers in Washington quickly agree on providing new funding for the federal highway program.
“Construction employment continues to rise in about two-thirds of the nation’s metro areas,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “However, there are still many areas that have not achieved consistent growth, and very few metros have exceeded previous peaks of construction employment.”
Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas, added the largest number of construction jobs in the past year (11,100 jobs, 10 percent); followed by Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif. (9,300 jobs, 8 percent); Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, Texas (7,300, 4 percent); Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine, Calif. (7,200 jobs, 9 percent); and Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, Ga. (7,100 jobs, 8 percent). The largest percentage gains occurred in St. Cloud, Minn. (34 percent, 1,700 jobs); Monroe, Mich. (30 percent, 700 jobs); and El Centro, Calif. (29 percent, 600 jobs).
Bethesda-Rockville-Frederick, Md. (-4,200 jobs, -13 percent) experienced the largest job loss from May 2013 to May 2014; followed by Gary, Ind. (-2,800 jobs, -14 percent) and Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, Va.-N.C. (-2,000 jobs, -6 percent). The largest percentage decline for the past year occurred in Cheyenne, Wyo. (-14 percent, -500 jobs) and Gary, followed by Vineland-Millville-Bridgeton, N.J. (-13 percent, -300 jobs) and Bethesda-Rockville-Frederick.
Only 28 metro areas exceeded or matched their prior May construction employment highs, with St. Cloud experiencing the largest percentage increase (26 percent, 1,400 jobs more than in May 2006). Baton Rouge, La. added the most jobs since reaching its prior May peak in 2013 (5,000 jobs, 11 percent). Las Vegas-Paradise, Nev., had the largest drop in total construction employment compared to its prior May peak in 2006 (-68,400 jobs, -62 percent), while Lake Havasu City-Kingman, Ariz., experienced the largest percentage decline compared to its May 2006 peak (-68 percent, -5,400 jobs).
Association officials urged Congress and the White House to reach agreement on both short-term funding relief for the federal highway trust fund and a long-term renewal and reform of the program. Unless legislation is adopted in the next few weeks, there will be disruptions in payments to highway contractors for work already performed. Another deadline looms on Sept. 30; after that date, both highway and transit construction programs will be suspended if new authorizing legislation is not in place.
“This is no time to play chicken with vital public works projects or the livelihoods of the dedicated workers who are building them,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Passing highway and transportation legislation should be an immediate priority for policy makers.”