Construction employment in June continued to trail pre-pandemic levels in more than one-third of the states despite record job openings, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released by the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America in late July. Association officials called on government officials to allow employers to sponsor more foreign-born workers and support more career and technical education to broaden opportunities for workers to gain construction skills.
Data for the Washington DC area suggests the region is falling somewhere in the middle of the nation. The district gained 100 jobs between May and June, an increase of 0.6%, ranking it 15th in the nation, while the 4% 12-month gain (600 jobs) placed bit 21st in the nation.
The AGC data doesn’t separate state-wide data for metropolitan areas, so the numbers for Maryland and Virginia include many areas not within the DC area, but they’ve generally fared less well. Maryland lost 700 jobs (0.4% between May and June, reducing the gain for the year to 2.0% or 3,100. Virginia overall meanwhile gained 0.5% (1,100 jobs) in the month, but overall has seen only a 0.2% increase or 500 jobs overall) in the past 12 months.
“Construction employment has stalled in many states, even though contractors have plenty of projects needing more employees, due to a dearth of qualified workers,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Only half the states had an increase in construction employment last month.”
Construction employment in June lagged the total in February 2020—the month before the coronavirus pandemic caused huge job losses—in 18 states and the District of Columbia. The biggest gap was in New York (-36,300 jobs, -8.9 percent), followed by Pennsylvania (-9,500 jobs, -3.6 percent) and New Jersey (-8,800 jobs, -5.4 percent). New York had the largest percentage shortfall, followed by North Dakota (-6.4 percent, -1,800 jobs) and Hawaii (-5.8 percent, -2,200 jobs).
June employment topped the February 2020 level in 31 states and matched it in West Virginia. Utah added the most (16,100 jobs, 14.1 percent), followed by Tennessee (15,900 jobs, 12.0 percent) and Washington (11,200 jobs, 5.0 percent). The top percentage gains were in Utah, Idaho (12.9 percent, 7,100 jobs), and Tennessee.
In June, 25 states and the District of Columbia added construction jobs, 23 states lost jobs, and there was no change in Hawaii and West Virginia. Pennsylvania added the most construction jobs over the month (4,400 jobs, 1.7 percent), followed by Massachusetts (3,300 jobs, 1.9 percent) and North Carolina (3,000 jobs, 1.2 percent). Oregon had the largest percentage gain (2.4 percent, 2,800 jobs), followed by Nebraska (2.3 percent, 1,300 jobs) and Arkansas (2.1 percent, 1,100 jobs).
California lost the most construction jobs in June (-6,100 jobs, -0.7 percent), followed by Texas (-3,000 jobs, -0.4 percent) and Florida (-2,400 jobs, -0.4 percent). Connecticut had the largest percentage loss (-2.9 percent, -1,800 jobs), followed by Wyoming (-2.2 percent, -500 jobs) and New Jersey (-1.4 percent, -2,200 jobs).
Association officials said demand for construction remains strong, particularly for infrastructure, manufacturing plants, and power and energy projects. They warned that projects will face increasing delays unless the pool of workers expands.
“The quickest way to ensure a sufficient worker supply is to allow employers to sponsor qualified, foreign-born workers,” said Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “In addition, all levels of government must invest more in career and technical education and training to widen the opportunities for individuals to qualify for rewarding, well-paying construction jobs.”