Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia added construction jobs between May 2018 and May 2019, 31 states and D.C. saw increases from April to May, according to analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) of Labor Department data.
Association officials said the new construction employment data underscores the need for new federal investments in career and technical education programs as well as immigration reform. "Construction demand remains strong, and contractors increased their workforce in most states over the past year, yet the record number of job openings at the end of April implies contractors would add even more workers if they could," said chief economist Ken Simonson. "With the unemployment rate now near a 50-year low, it is more challenging than ever for contractors to hire and retain qualified employees."
Texas added the most construction jobs over the year (35,200 jobs, 4.8%), followed by California (32,200 jobs, 1.5%), Florida (28,000 jobs, 5.2%), Arizona (17,300 jobs, 11.1%) and Nevada (15,200 jobs, 17.2%). West Virginia added the highest percentage of construction jobs over 12 months (26.5%, 9,900 jobs), followed by Nevada, Arizona, North Dakota (10.9%, 2,800 jobs). Construction employment reached a record high in four states: Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas and Washington.
Ten states shed construction jobs over the latest 12 months, while employment was unchanged in Iowa. Louisiana lost the largest number and percentage of construction jobs (-9,100 jobs, -6.0%). Other states with large job losses included South Carolina (-3,100 jobs, -3.0%), Maryland (-2,400 jobs, -1.5%), Mississippi (1,700 jobs, -3.8%), Maine (1,200 jobs, -4.1%) and Missouri (-1,200 jobs, -1.0%). Other states with a steep percentage decline include Vermont (-5.9%, -900 jobs), Maine, Mississippi and South Carolina.
From April to May, California added the most construction jobs, followed by Florida, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin and Nevada. North Dakota added the highest percentage of construction jobs for the month. Construction employment decreased from April to May in 17 states and was unchanged in Alaska and Idaho. New York lost the most, followed by Massachusetts, Illinois and Ohio. West Virginia had the steepest percentage loss of construction jobs between April and May, followed by Kansas, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York.
Association officials said that workforce shortages are limiting the number of new construction jobs being added in many locations. They urged federal officials to boost funding for career and technical education programs and enact immigration reforms. New education funding would make it easier for schools to set up construction-focused programs while immigration reform will allow more people with construction skills to legally enter the country.
"The growing construction sector would be supporting even more high-paying middle-class jobs in this country if firms could only find more workers to hire," said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's chief executive officer. "Making it easier to prepare and attract more people into the industry will provide significant benefits to the broader economy."