Construction employment in the Washington DC metro area declined by 3 percent in the past year, putting it near the bottom of the nation, where jobs increased in 79 percent of its communities, according to government employment data compiled by the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America.
Between February 2022 and 2023 the District and Virginia and Maryland suburbs lost 500 jobs, reducing the employment rolls to 14,700 from 15,200. (Numbers include people working in mining and logging, but it is doubtful many if any individuals would be employed in those sectors within the DC area.)
Construction employment increased in 283 of 358 metro areas between February 2022 and February 2023, according to the AGC’s analysis. Meanwhile, new government data shows there were more job openings in the industry than the number of people hired last month. Association officials said the industry continues to struggle to find enough workers and urged public leaders to boost investments in construction training and education.
“Although construction employment rose in nearly four-fifths of all metros in the past 12 months, contractors are still struggling fill jobs,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist, in a statement from the AGC’s DC-area office. “There were more far job openings in construction at the end of February than construction employees hired in the entire month.”
Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas added the most construction jobs (15,000 jobs or 10 percent), followed by Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, Nev. (9,100 jobs, 13 percent); Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, Ga. (8,900 jobs, 7 percent), and Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Ariz. (7,300 jobs, 5 percent). The largest percentage gains were in Hanford-Corcoran, Calif. (27 percent, 300 jobs); Wausau, Wis (23 percent, 500 jobs); Danville, Ill. (20 percent, 100 jobs); and Watertown-Fort Drum, N.Y. (20 percent, 300 jobs).
Construction jobs declined over the year in 41 metro areas and were unchanged in 34 areas. The largest loss occurred in Sacramento—Roseville—Arden-Arcade, Calif. (-4,200 jobs, -6 percent), followed by Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif. (-3,200 jobs, -2 percent); Pittsburgh, Pa. (-3,100 jobs, -6 percent); Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall, Fla. (-2,900 jobs, -6 percent); and Lake Charles, La. (-1,700 jobs, -12 percent). Lawton, Okla. experienced the largest percentage job loss (-18 percent, -300 jobs), followed by Monroe, Mich. (-17 percent, -400 jobs); Lake Charles; and Gulfport-Biloxi-Pascagoula, Miss. (-10 percent, -900 jobs).
Government data released on April 4 showed there were 384,000 job openings in construction at the end of February, topping the 315,000 workers hired during the entire month. The disparity implied that contractors wanted to hire more than twice as many employees as they were able to find, Simonson said.
Association officials noted that the federal government spendings five times as much – not counting support for federal college loans – to encourage learners to pursue a college education than it does supporting career and technical education programs that focus on craft career paths like construction. They urged Congress and the Biden administration to help narrow the funding gap.
“Construction firms can’t hire fast enough to keep pace with strong demands and the turnover that comes with having an aging workforce,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “It doesn’t help that federal officials are spending far more to encourage new workers to go to college instead of pursuing rewarding careers in construction.”