Construction Employment Declines in Most Metropolitan Areas Over the Past Year

Construction employment fell in 276 of the nation’s largest 299 metro areas from April 2008 to April 2009, according to a new analysis of government data conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America’s (AGC) chief economist Ken Simonson.”Job loss figures like these are exactly what prompted Congress and the Administration to craft a stimulus package designed to get Americans back to work as quickly as possible,” says Simonson. “Putting these funds to good use as quickly as possible is the best way to get Americans back to work and the economy back on track.”

Among the communities seeing the largest declines in construction employment were Tucson, Ariz., with a 29.2 percent decline, Redding, Calif., with a 31.6 percent decline; Reno-Sparks, Nev., with a 29.1 percent decline; Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla., with a 23.6 percent decline; and Pascagoula, Miss., with a 38.8 percent decline. By comparison, construction employment grew in only 19 metro areas, led by an 8.0 percent gain in Odessa, Texas; a 7.3 percent in Baton Rouge, La.; and a 5.7 percent in Decatur, Ill.

Simonson noted that the construction sector has seen the largest decline in employment relative to the rest of the economy. For example, overall construction unemployment was at 18.7 percent in April 2009 while the overall unemployment rate was 8.6 percent, not seasonally adjusted.

However, Simonson cautioned that uncertainty over the application of buy American provisions was potentially delaying the award of some projects, driving up the cost of others and even forcing contractors to rip out pipes already laid for at least one project in California.

“We need to make sure needless red tape and regulations don’t keep construction workers off the job,” Simonson says. “There’s a real risk that buy American provisions, for example, could undermine the very purpose of the stimulus… to get Americans working again.”

CLICK HERE for a complete set of construction employment statistics for the nation’s metropolitan areas.