Construction employment increased in 274 out of 358 metro areas between August 2016 and August 2017, declined in 52 and stagnated in 32, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released today by the Associated General Contractors of America, Arlington, VA. Association officials noted that the construction job gains come even as 70 percent of responding firms reported having a hard time finding qualified craft workers to hire.
“While many firms’ efforts to increase pay, add benefits and expand the diversity of their workforce appear to be helping, it is still a challenge for many contractors to keep pace with demand,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “It is not yet entirely clear how reconstruction work in Texas and Florida following the two recent hurricanes will impact already tight construction labor markets.”
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif. added the most construction jobs during the past year (15,800 jobs, 17 percent), followed by Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif. (11,000 jobs, 8 percent); Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, Nev. (10,900 jobs, 20 percent); Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, Ore.-Wash. (8,500 jobs, 13 percent) and Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla. (7,400 jobs, 10 percent). The largest percentage gains occurred in the Lewiston, Idaho-Wash. metro area (27 percent, 400 jobs) followed by Lake Charles, La. (23 percent; 4,800 jobs); Detroit-Dearborn-Livonia, Mich. (20 percent, 4,400 jobs); Las Vegas; Killeen-Temple, Texas (17 percent, 1,600 jobs) and Riverside, Calif.
The largest job losses from August 2016 to August 2017 were in Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas (-4,500 jobs, -2 percent), followed by Columbia, S.C. (-3,900 jobs, -23 percent); Orange-Rockland-Westchester, N.Y. (-2,500 jobs, -6 percent); San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif. (-2,300 jobs, -4 percent) and Middlesex-Monmouth-Ocean, N.J. (-1,900 jobs, -5 percent). The largest percentage decreases for the year were in Columbia, S.C.; followed by Grand Forks, N.D.-Minn. (-22 percent, -1,100 jobs); Danville, Ill. (-17 percent, -100 jobs) and Trenton, N.J. (-9 percent, – 500 jobs).
Association officials said that construction demand remains relatively robust in many parts of the country. They cautioned, however, that the challenge many construction firms are having finding qualified craft workers likely means the industry would have added more jobs in many parts of the country. And they noted that unless federal, state and local officials act on measures outlined in the association’s Workforce Development Plan, firms may opt to delay construction schedules or chose not to bid on projects as labor shortages become more acute.
“The shortage of available, qualified craft workers is clearly having an impact on the way many firms operate,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “And if these shortages continue, they are likely to have a significant impact on overall economic growth.”