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Construction employment declines in the District and Maryland suburbs, increases in Northern Virginia: AGC

Washington Construction News staff writer

Construction employment in the year from March 2023 to March 2024 increased in Northern Virginia, but declined in the District and Maryland suburbs, according to federal employment data released on April 30 by the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America.

The District and Silver Spring-Frederick-Rockville maret areas each reported a 5% employment decline, reflecting 700 jobs in DC and 1,700 in the Maryland communities.  Overall, there were 14,500 construction workers in the District compared to 30,000 in southern Maryland, ranking these communities 333 out of 358 markets nationally.

Conversely, employment grew by 2% in Northern Virginia to 83,700 from 82,100, an increase of 1,600 workers.  This put the Northern Virginia area closer to the middle nationally, with a ranking of 182.

Nationally, construction employment rose in 234, or 65 percent, of 358 metro areas.

Association officials noted that demand for a range of projects, from infrastructure to manufacturing and data centers, continues to grow in many parts of the country even as firms struggle to find enough workers.

“While high interest rates and post-Covid work patterns are reducing demand for certain types of projects, the overall construction market remains strong and many firms are still expanding their payrolls,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “But most firms are struggling to find enough workers as the number of qualified, available workers remains insufficient to satisfy the demand.”

Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif. and Baton Rouge, La. added the most construction jobs (6,200 jobs each or 6 percent and 13 percent, respectively) between March 2023 and March 2024. Other metro areas with large numerical increases include Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas (5,700 jobs, 7 percent); Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Ariz. (5,200 jobs, 3 percent); and Detroit-Dearborn-Livonia, Mich. (5,000 jobs, 22 percent). The largest percentage gain—27 percent—occurred in Fairbanks, Alaska, which added 600 jobs. The pickup in Fairbanks was followed by Redding, Calif. (24 percent, 900 jobs); Detroit; Anchorage, Alaska (20 percent, 1,800 jobs); Danville, Ill. (20 percent, 100 jobs); and Lawton, Okla. (20 percent, 300 jobs).

Construction employment declined over the year in 81 metro areas and was unchanged in 43 areas. The largest job loss occurred in New York City (-7,500 jobs, -5 percent), followed by Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minn.-Wis. (-5,700 jobs, -7 percent); Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colo. (-5,600 jobs, -5 percent); Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, Ore.-Wash. (-4,600 jobs, -6 percent) and Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Wash. (-4,500 jobs, -4 percent). The largest percentage decrease occurred in Decatur, Ill. (-26 percent, -1,000 jobs), followed by Augusta-Richmond County, Ga.-S.C. (-14 percent, -2,300 jobs); Lake Charles, La. (-11 percent, -1,300 jobs); and Bellingham, Wash. (-11 percent, -1,000 jobs).

Association officials noted that some construction firms are choosing not to bid on projects because they lack sufficient staff to fulfill the work. They warned this will limit competition for vital new infrastructure and economic development projects. They urged Congress and the Biden administration to boost funding for construction education and training programs and to implement reforms to the immigration system.

“Policy makers spent decades dismantling once-robust construction education programs, so even if Congress acts soon, it is going to take time to reinvigorate them,” said Jeffrey D. Shoaf, the association’s chief executive officer. “In the meantime, sensible immigration reform measures can allow more people to lawfully enter the country to work in construction and achieve the American dream.”

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Mark Buckshon
Mark Buckshonhttps://washingtonconstructionnews.com
Mark Buckshon is the publisher and interim editor of Washington Construction News. He is also president of the Construction News and Report Group of Companies. He combines a journalism and business background, and has published construction trade publications for more than 30 years, after an earlier career in journalism, which culminated when he lived through the transition from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe in 1978-80 as a sub-editor for the Bulawayo Chronicle and a correspondent for a Canadian news service.

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