More states lost construction jobs in May than at any point since June 2011 as 30 states experienced annual job losses and 27 states and Washington, D.C., lost jobs during the past month, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America of U.S. Labor Department data. The weak state construction employment figures come as public investments in construction decline and the federal transportation program is at risk of shutting down on June 30.
“As the public sector continues to restrain growth in construction demand, we will continue to see weak reports like this,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “There isn’t enough demand for private sector structures to compensate for dwindling investments in highways, bridges, water systems, and public buildings.”
Simonson noted only 19 states plus the Washington, D.C., added construction jobs between May 2011 and May 2012, while construction employment was stagnant in Kansas for the year. Montana added the highest percentage of new construction jobs for the year (15.2%, 3,400 jobs), followed by North Dakota (13.7%, 3,200 jobs), and Nebraska (10.6%, 4,400 jobs). Texas added the most new construction jobs (15,600 jobs, 2.8%), followed by California (11,700 jobs, 2.1%), Arizona (11,000, 10%), and Indiana (8,800 jobs, 7.5%).
The economist said that among states that lost construction jobs during the past year, Alaska lost the highest percentage (-20.4%, -3,200 jobs), followed by Wisconsin (-10%, -9,200 jobs), and Mississippi (-9.2%, -4,500 jobs). Florida lost the most jobs (-22,200 jobs, -6.6%), followed by Illinois (-12,200 jobs, -4.7%), New York (-12,100 jobs, -3.9%), and Wisconsin.
Twenty-one states added construction jobs between April and May 2012, while construction employment levels were stagnant for the month in Delaware and Maine, Simonson noted. Nebraska added both the highest percentage and the most new construction jobs for the month (8.2%, 3,400 jobs), followed by Montana (7.6%, 1,700 jobs), and West Virginia (2.5%, 800 jobs). Other states adding a high number of construction jobs for the month were California (2,600 jobs, 0.5%), Ohio (2,400 jobs, 1.4%), and Texas (2,400 jobs, 0.5%).
Mississippi had the steepest percentage decline among states that lost construction jobs for the month (-5.1%, -2,500 jobs), followed by Wyoming (-4.9%, -1,000 jobs), and Rhode Island (-3.9%, -600 jobs). New York had the largest number of job losses (-7,800 jobs, -2.5%) followed by North Carolina (-4,800 jobs, -2.7%), Maryland (-4,600 jobs, -3.2%), and Illinois (-4,600 jobs, -2.3%).
Association officials warned that construction employment was likely to get worse if Congress continues to cut investments in public infrastructure and buildings. They added that a failure to enact new federal transportation legislation before a June 30 deadline could result in tens of thousands of construction layoffs around the country.
"While the economy will have to get a lot better before we see big gains in construction employment, public cuts are not helping the situation,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's chief executive officer. “Passing a highway and transit bill, in particular, would give a needed boost to construction employment.”