Only 30 percent of the nation’s metro areas added construction jobs in the past year, according to an analysis of new government data that the Associated General Contractors of America released Dec. 2. Association officials said construction employment in most parts of the country was being impacted by pandemic as businesses and local governments curtail planned construction projects.
“The pandemic has devastated the finances for businesses, institutions, and state and local governments, leading to widespread postponements and cancellations of construction projects,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “As contractors use up the funds from Paycheck Protection Program loans, even more job losses are inevitable unless the federal government provides an immediate economic boost.”
Construction employment fell in 209, or 58 percent, of 358 metro areas between October 2019 and October 2020. Construction employment was stagnant in 40 other metro areas, meanwhile, and only 109 metro areas—30 percent—added construction jobs during the past year.
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas lost the most construction jobs over those 12 months (-19,800 jobs, -8 percent), followed by New York City (-17,300 jobs, -11 percent); Montgomery-Bucks-Chester Counties, Pa. (-12,100 jobs, -21 percent); and Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minn. (-10,400 jobs, -11 percent). Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton, Mass. had the largest percentage decline (-43 percent, -2,500 jobs), followed by Bloomsburg-Berwick, Pa. (-36 percent, -500 jobs); Altoona, Pa. (-32 percent, -1,000 jobs); Johnstown, Pa. (-30 percent, -800 jobs); and East Stroudsburg, Pa. (-30 percent, -600 jobs).
Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas added the most construction jobs over the year (7,100 jobs, 5 percent), followed by Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Wash. (4,700 jobs, 4 percent); Kansas City, Mo. (3,700 jobs, 12 percent); and Boise, Idaho (3,500 jobs, 13 percent). Walla Walla, Wash. had the highest percentage increase (25 percent, 300 jobs), followed by Lewiston, Idaho-Wash. (18 percent, 300 jobs); Oshkosh-Neenah, Wisc. (16 percent, 900 jobs); Fond du Lac, Wisc. (15 percent, 500 jobs); and Springfield, Mo. (15 percent, 1,400 jobs).
Association officials said the best way to curtail future construction job losses was for Congress to pass new federal coronavirus relief measures. These measures should include making new infrastructure investments, eliminating plans to tax Paycheck Protection Program loans and enacting liability reform to protect honest businesses from baseless coronavirus lawsuits.
“Construction employment is likely to continue falling in many parts of the country unless Congress quickly passes new coronavirus relief measures,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Boosting infrastructure projects, preserving the benefits of the Paycheck Protection Program and protecting businesses from predatory attorneys will help stabilize the economy and demand for construction.”