Only 10 out of 337 metropolitan areas added construction jobs between February 2009 and 2010, the Associated General Contractors of America recently reported, citing data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Even worse, 230 metro areas experienced double digit declines in construction employment while only two cities experienced a double digit increase, association officials noted.

“In virtually every area, construction workers continued to suffer the brunt of the recession,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Job losses in far too many cities were simply, and sadly, staggering.”

The construction economist said that Houston lost more construction jobs (25,500, 13 percent) than any other metro area between February 2009 and 2010. Meanwhile, Monroe, Mich., lost the highest percentage of construction jobs (41 percent, 900 jobs). Other areas experiencing a high number of job losses include Chicago, (25,200, 20 percent); Los Angeles, (23,000, 19 percent); Las Vegas, (22,900, 31 percent); and Phoenix, (20,600, 20 percent).

Among the 10 metro areas adding construction jobs during the past 12 months (12 metro areas experienced no change in employment), three added only 100 jobs (Ithaca, N.Y.; Grand Forks, N.D.; and Bismarck, N.D.). Eau Claire, Wis., added more jobs and a higher percent of jobs than any other city in America (600, 29 percent). Other areas adding jobs include El Paso, Texas (400, 3 percent); Haverhill-North Andover-Amesbury, Massachusetts-New Hampshire (300, 9 percent); Syracuse, N.Y., (300, 3 percent); and Lafayette, La., (200, 3 percent).

Simonson noted that the general construction industry continues to suffer from weak demand for new construction activity. Annual construction spending declined to an eight-year low in February.

He said that single-family homebuilding and the federal stimulus should help boost construction employment in a number of metro areas this spring, but high vacancy rates and shrinking state and local budgets will keep construction employment from rising in most areas.

In addition to low spending levels, association officials cautioned that federal and state regulatory and spending decisions were having an impact on the industry.

They cited confusion about the impact of the health care legislation, unfunded mandates in California and New York forcing contractors to retrofit or replace current equipment, and infrastructure spending cuts in states like New York and Florida.

Publication date:04/26/2010