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Coast city's construction employment plummets

PASCAGOULA — Construction employment continued to suffer significant declines in the majority of metropolitan areas according to an analysis of federal employment data released by the Associated General Contractors of America.

And, the City of Pascagoula saw the third-highest percentage decrease in building employment among all U.S. metropolitan areas.

The figures reflect continued weak private, state and local demand as well as a lack of long-term projects caused by stalled federal infrastructure bills, association officials noted.

“With current demand soft and chances of a turnaround months away, construction firms are unwilling to expand payrolls,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Contractors know there’s nothing to take up the slack once the stimulus runs its course.”

Simonson noted that construction employment declined in 294 metropolitan areas between May 2009 and May 2010, increased in 16 metro areas, and held steady in another 27. He added that 11 metro areas have lost over 10,000 construction jobs each during the past 12 months, while one-in-three cities added 1,000 or more jobs during the same period.

Chicago lost the most construction jobs between May 2009 and 2010 (21,900, 16 percent), followed by Houston, Texas (18,400 jobs, 10 percent) and Los Angeles-Long Beach (17,300 jobs, 15 percent). Chico, Calif., experienced the largest percentage decrease in construction employment (33 percent, 900 jobs), followed by Flagstaff, Ariz. (32 percent, 700 jobs); Pascagoula, (31 percent, 1,900 jobs); Monroe, Mich. (29 percent, 700 jobs); and, Lewiston, along the Idaho-Washington border (25 percent, 300 jobs).

Columbus, Ohio, added the highest number of construction jobs during the past year (1,500 jobs, 5 percent), followed by Kansas City, Kan., (1,100 jobs, 6 percent) and Oklahoma City, Okla., (1,000 jobs, 4 percent). Two metro areas recorded double-digit percentage gains in construction employment: Eau Claire, Wis., (17 percent, 500 jobs) and Haverhill-North Andover-Amesbury along the New Hampshire-Massachusetts border (11 percent, 400 jobs).

Association officials urged Congress and the Obama Administration to quickly pass a number of multi-year infrastructure bills so construction firms can adjust their payrolls to meet future demand. They noted that with legislation that sets funding levels for the nation’s highways, transit systems, airports, waterways, drinking and sewer systems all months overdue, contractors are hesitant to expand payrolls.

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