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Construction industry adds workers, but…

State Route 9_2_rgbThere are signs that the nation’s construction industry is rebounding, but it will take a while before it fully recovers, according to one building trade association.

Construction employment expanded in 195 metro areas, declined in 90 and was stagnant in 54 between January 2013 and January 2014, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released by the Associated General Contractors of America.

Association officials noted, however, that despite the gains construction employment remained below peak levels in all but 21 metro areas.

“It is a sign of the continued strengthening of the construction industry that nearly 60 percent of metros added construction jobs from a year earlier despite the severe winter conditions in much of the country this January,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Nevertheless, the industry’s recovery has a long way to go with only a smattering of metro areas exceeding their previous peak January level of employment.”

Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif. added the largest number of construction jobs in the past year (8,100 jobs, 7 percent), followed by Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, Texas (7,900 jobs, 4 percent), Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine, Calif. (7,800 jobs, 11 percent) and Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas (7,200 jobs, 7 percent).  The largest percentage gains occurred in Pascagoula, Miss. (46 percent, 2,100 jobs), El Centro, Calif. (39 percent, 700 jobs) and Steubenville-Weirton, Ohio-W.V. (38 percent, 600 jobs).

The largest job losses from January 2013 to January 2014 were in Gary, Ind. (-4,400 jobs, -25 percent); followed by Putnam-Rockland-Westchester, N.Y. (-2,100 jobs, -8 percent) and Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, Va.-N.C. (-1,500 jobs, -4 percent).  The largest percentage decline for the past year was also in Gary, followed by Redding, Calif. (-17 percent, -400 jobs) and Elizabethtown, Ky. (-14 percent, -200 jobs).

Greeley, Colo. experienced the largest percentage increase among the 21 cities that hit a new January construction employment high from the prior January peak (20 percent higher than in 2013).  Baton Rouge, La. added the most jobs since reaching its prior January peak in 2013 (4,500 jobs).  Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale experienced the largest drop in total construction employment compared to its prior, January 2006, peak (-80,900 jobs) while Lake Havasu City-Kingman, Ariz. experienced the largest percentage decline compared to its January 2006 peak (-69 percent).

Association officials said the latest figures were a sign that construction employment is rebounding in many parts of the country, but most places still have a long way to go before returning to prior employment levels.  They added that many contractors across the country were worried about a possible slowdown in federally-funded transportation projects this summer when the federal Highway Trust Fund is expected to hit a zero balance.

“The industry is slowing digging itself out of a construction employment hole that got pretty deep during the past few years,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer.  “If Congress and the Obama administration can’t figure out a way to address highway funding shortfalls very soon, that hole is only going to get deeper.”

 

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