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Construction employment holds steady in DC, declines in VA/MD in last month: AGC

Construction employment has rebounded to near pre-pandemic levels in the District of Columbia, but overall the labour market is showing some stress in Virginia, and a significant loss overall has been reported for Maryland, according to US Bureau of Labor Statistics data gathered by the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America.

DC lost just 200 jobs between February, 2020 and April 2021 — with the construction labor force of 15,500 ranking 20th in the nation. This is an improvement from the pandemic’s start, when employment declined from 15,700 to 13,700 between February and April 2000.

Statewide, Virginia’s job loss is also modest compared to pre-pandemic numbers, declining 3,200 jobs or 1.5 percent from the February 2020 numbers of 207,800.  However, there was a loss of 1,400 jobs between March, 2021 and April 2021, bringing the employment numbers in the last month down by .07 percent.

Overall, Maryland has fared worse than the other markets, ranking 41th nationally, and with a 4.1 percent loss from pre-pandemic levels.  Construction employment declined by 6,800 in the 14 months from 167,400 to 160,680. There was a loss of 1,800 jobs between March and April, 2021. This is still an improvement form the pandemic’s peak in 2020, when the overall employment numbers were 151,100 in April, 2020.

Nationally, construction employment in April remained below the pre-pandemic high set in February 2020 in 36 states and the District of Columbia, despite increases from March to April in 26 states, according to an by the Associated General Contractors of America of government employment data released today. Association officials said that the sector’s recovery was being undermined by increases in materials prices, delays in receiving key construction supplies and labor shortages.

“Today’s numbers show that construction has yet to fully recover from the effects of the pandemic in most parts of the country,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Even where employment has topped pre-pandemic levels, the gains are likely due mainly to feverish homebuilding and remodeling, not to widespread resumption of nonresidential building and infrastructure projects.”

Seasonally adjusted construction employment in April exceeded the February 2020 level in only 14 states. Utah added the most jobs (5,100 jobs or 4.5 percent), trailed by Idaho (4,400 jobs, 8.0 percent), Washington (3,800 jobs, 1.7 percent), and South Carolina (1,900 jobs, 1.8 percent). Idaho added the highest percentage, followed by South Dakota (6.3 percent, 1,500 jobs), Utah, and Rhode Island (3.5 percent, 700 jobs).

Employment declined from the February 2020 level in 36 states and D.C. Texas lost the most construction jobs over the period (-44,800 jobs or -5.7 percent), followed by New York (-29,300 jobs, -9.1 percent), California (-27,600 jobs, -3.0 percent), Louisiana (-19,600 jobs, -14.3 percent), and New Jersey (-15,600 jobs, -9.5%). Louisiana recorded the largest percentage loss, followed by Wyoming (-13.5 percent, -3,100 jobs), New Jersey, New York, and West Virginia (-8.7 percent, -2,900 jobs).

For the month, construction employment increased in 26 states, decreased in 21, and held steady in three states and D.C. Illinois added the most construction jobs (4,000 jobs, 1.8 percent), followed by Pennsylvania (3,400 jobs, 1.4 percent), Wisconsin (2,900 jobs, 2.4 percent), Kentucky (1,900 jobs, 2.4 percent) and North Carolina (1,600 jobs, 0.7 percent). New Hampshire had the largest percentage gain (3.2 percent, 900 jobs), followed by Rhode Island (2.4 percent, 500 jobs), Kentucky, and Wisconsin. Texas lost the most construction jobs for the month (-13,600 jobs, -1.8 percent), followed by New York, (-3,900 jobs, -1.0 percent) and Iowa (-3,100 jobs, -3.9 percent). Iowa had the largest percentage loss, followed by Alabama (-2.4 percent, -2,200 jobs), and Texas.

Association officials noted that rapid increases in the cost of many construction materials are hammering firms still trying to recover from the pandemic. Deliveries of many materials are often delayed because of manufacturing and shipping backups. In addition, many firms report having trouble finding workers to hire amid continued school closures, lingering worries about the pandemic and elevated unemployment benefits.

“Federal officials can give the industry a needed boost by removing tariffs on key construction materials such as lumber, steel, and aluminum, and taking steps to ease supply-chain backups,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “It is also time to end barriers keeping workers home, including reopening schools and ending the unemployment supplements.”

View state February 2020-April 2021 , 12-month , 1-month and .

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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