Thirty-eight states added construction jobs between March 2018 and March 2019, while construction employment increased in 29 states between February and March, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) of recently released Labor Department data. Association officials said the widespread gains show demand for workers remains strong and urged federal officials to enact immigration reforms to boost the supply of qualified workers.
"Although construction has added jobs in many states at a higher rate than the private sector as a whole in the past year, the record number of job openings at the end of February shows contractors would add even more workers if they could," says Chief Economist Ken Simonson. "There is no sign of a let-up in the demand for construction workers."
Texas added the most construction jobs over the year (28,300 jobs, 3.9%), followed by California (24,500 jobs, 2.9%), Florida (24,100 jobs, 4.5%), Arizona (16,800 jobs, 10.8%) and West Virginia (15,800 jobs, 44.6%). West Virginia added the highest percentage of construction jobs over 12 months, followed by Nevada (14.2%, 12,400 jobs), Wyoming (11.6%, 2,300 jobs), Alaska (10.9%, 1,700 jobs) and Arizona. Construction employment reached a record high in five states: New York, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Washington.
Eleven states and the District of Columbia shed construction jobs over the latest 12 months, while construction employment was unchanged in Nebraska. The largest job loss took place in Louisiana (-7,900 jobs, -5.2%), followed by Illinois (-4,700 jobs, -2.1%), South Carolina (-4,400 jobs, -4.2%) and Missouri (-4,300 jobs, -3.5%). Vermont had the steepest percentage loss of construction jobs over the 12-month span (-7.8%, -1,200 jobs), followed by Maine (-6.7%, -2,000 jobs), Louisiana, the District of Columbia (-5.9%, -800 jobs), South Carolina, and Missouri.
Among the 29 states with one-month construction job gains between February and March, Washington added the largest number and percentage (14,800 jobs, 6.6%). Other states adding large numbers of construction employees included California (9,400 jobs, 1.1%), Texas (5,100 jobs, 0.7%), Florida (3,800 jobs, 1.1%), Minnesota (2,800 jobs, 2.2%) and New York (2,700 jobs, 0.7%). Minnesota added the second-highest percentage of construction jobs for the month, followed by Nevada (2.1%, 2,100 jobs) and Arkansas (2.1%, 1,100 jobs).
Construction employment decreased from February to March in 18 states and D.C. and was unchanged in Maine, Montana, and New Hampshire. Pennsylvania lost the most construction jobs for the month (-1,800 jobs, -0.7%), followed by Illinois (-1,600 jobs, -0.7%), Kentucky (-1,200 jobs, -1.5%) and Nebraska (-1,100 jobs, -2.0%). Vermont had the largest percentage loss (-2.1%, -300 jobs), followed by Nebraska, D.C. (-1.9%, 300 jobs), and Kentucky.
Association officials said the record number of job openings in construction indicates the urgency of putting in place a way for contractors to bring qualified guest workers into the country, coupled with strict safeguards for American jobs and reduced incentives for individuals to enter the country illegally. They called on Congress and the president to enact legislation, such as the recently introduced Workforce for an Expanding Economy Act.
"Contractors are struggling to find enough qualified workers to hire in order to keep pace with the ongoing demand for construction," says Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's CEO. "Allowing employers to bring in guest workers for positions that can't be filled otherwise will help keep the economy expanding."