Construction employment rose in 28 states and the District of Columbia between January 2011 and January 2012, while 20 states lost construction jobs and two held steady — the best net positive showing for state construction employment since 2007, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America of data from the U.S. Department of Labor. Thirty-five states and Washington, D.C., added construction jobs between December 2011 and January 2012, while 13 states had decreases for the month and two states had no change.
"There is accumulating evidence that construction has passed its low point in a majority of states, although shrinking public construction will hold down the improvement in many locations," said Ken Simonson, the association's chief economist. "Moreover, the gains this January partly reflect very mild weather this winter and exceptionally cold and snowy conditions a year before."
Simonson noted that Pennsylvania (13,000, 6.0%) added the most construction jobs between January 2011 and 2012, while North Dakota had the largest percentage gain (16.1%, 3,600 jobs). Tennessee was second in both total and percent gains (12,500, 12%).
The economist said that among the 20 states that lost construction jobs during the past year, Florida (-21,500, -6.3%) lost the most, followed by Illinois (-9,500, -4.8%). Alabama (-9.0%, -7,300) lost the highest percentage, followed by Nevada (-8.1%, -4,800). Simonson added that construction employment remained unchanged for the year in Maine and Nebraska.
California (8,900, 1.6%) added the most construction jobs between December 2011 and January 2012, followed by Texas (8,300, 1.5%). Connecticut (6.3%, 3,100) experienced the highest percentage increase in construction employment, followed by Kansas (5.8%, 3,100).
Thirteen states lost construction jobs for the month, led by Florida (-6,200, -1.9%) and followed by New York (-5,200, -1.7%). Meanwhile, Rhode Island (-5.5%, -900) lost the highest percentage of construction jobs between December and January. Indiana and Wyoming experienced no change in construction employment for the month, Simonson added.
Association officials said the improving construction employment data was welcome news and added that they were working hard to make sure the trend continues. They noted they were working to get Congress to act on a number of long-delayed infrastructure measures, including the surface transportation bill and to set long-term tax rates that impact many of the association's members.
"Even as the private sector continues to build steam, we want to make sure federal actions, and inactions, don't hold the construction industry back," said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's chief executive officer. "Setting infrastructure investments levels and establishing some kind of tax certainty would complement the growing private sector demand for construction and help put even more people back to work."