Even as construction firms added jobs in 41 states and the District of Columbia between March 2014 and March 2015, construction employment declined in 29 states between February and March, according to an analysis today of Labor Department data by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials cautioned that ongoing D.C. gridlock over how to pay for needed infrastructure improvements and declining demand for oil-related projects likely contributed to so many states shedding construction jobs last month.
"While the year-over-year data remains relatively positive, it is troubling to see so many states losing construction jobs during the past month," said Ken Simonson, the association's chief economist. "As energy firms cancel or delay projects and Congressional action on transportation and other infrastructure measures remains stalled, many construction firms appear to be reducing headcount, at least temporarily."
California added more new construction jobs (46,300 jobs, 6.9 percent) between March 2014 and March 2015 than any other state. Other states adding a high number of new construction jobs for the past 12 months included Texas (39,300 jobs, 6.2 percent), Florida (37,400 jobs, 9.7 percent), Washington (18,900 jobs, 12.1 percent) and Illinois (16,600 jobs, 8.4 percent). Idaho (14.8 percent, 4,800 jobs) added the highest percentage of new construction jobs during the past year, followed by North Dakota (12.1 percent, 4,000 jobs), Washington and Colorado (10.4 percent, 14,500 jobs).
Nine states shed construction jobs during the past 12 months while construction employment was unchanged in D.C. West Virginia (-2,400 jobs, -7.2 percent) and Mississippi (-2,400 jobs, -4.7 percent) were tied for the most construction jobs lost. Other states that lost a high number of construction jobs for the year were Indiana (-1,900 jobs, -1.6 percent), Ohio (-1,400 jobs, -0.7 percent) and Nebraska (-600 jobs, -1.6 percent.)
Texas (-5,800 jobs, -0.9 percent) lost the most construction jobs between February and March. Other states experiencing large monthly declines in total construction employment included Ohio (-4,500 jobs, -2.3 percent), Kentucky (-4,100 jobs, -5.4 percent), Georgia (-3,500 jobs, -2.2 percent) and Arkansas (-3,400 jobs, -6.9 percent). Arkansas lost the highest percent of construction jobs, followed by Kentucky, West Virginia (-4.3 percent, -1,400 jobs) and New Mexico (-3 percent, -1,300 jobs).
Nineteen states added construction jobs during the past month, while construction employment was unchanged in Maine and Montana. California (7,300 jobs, 1 percent) added the most jobs, followed by Florida (6,500 jobs, 1.6 percent), Illinois (3,600 jobs, 1.7 percent) and Washington (2,800 jobs, 1.6 percent). Mississippi (2.3 percent, 1,100 jobs) had the highest percentage increase for the month, followed by Delaware (2 percent, 400 jobs), Nevada (2 percent, 1,300 jobs) and Illinois.
Association officials said the industry's recovery was at risk amid weakening demand and urged Congress and the Obama administration to act quickly to figure out a way to pay for and pass legislation to repair aging roads, bridges and transit systems, as well as other public infrastructure.
"The construction industry has clearly hit a soft patch," said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's CEO. "Passing needed infrastructure measures will certainly help keep construction employment levels from backsliding."