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DC metro area communities lag in construction employment: AGC

Washington Construction News staff writer

Echoing earlier state-wide data, the Washington metropolitan area including DC and Northern Virginia and Southern Maryland suburbs has fared relatively poorly in the past year in terms of construction employment.

Both the DC and Silver Spring-Frederick-Rockville, MD reported a five per cent decline in employment in the 12 months from January 2023 to January, 2024, according to data compiled by the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America.

DC lost 700 jobs, ending the year with 14,400 workers (ranking 334th in the country).  The Maryland suburbs, reflecting their greater population, lost 1,700 jobs, for a final 29,700 total. Northern Virginia didn’t do quite so poorly, losing one per cent, or 900 jobs, ending the year ranked 279.

Nationally, construction employment increased in 231 or 65 percent of 358 metro areas, the AGC reported. Association officials noted that the industry ended the month with more than 400,000 job openings nationwide, suggesting that many more metros would have experienced employment increases if enough qualified workers were available.

“Although construction employment has been rising nationally and in nearly two-thirds of metro areas, contractors are eager to hire far more workers,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “There were 407,000 unfilled positions in construction at the end of January, which was a near-record level for January,” he said, citing the government’s latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey.

Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Ariz. added the most construction jobs (10,900 jobs or 8 percent) between January 2023 and January 2024, followed by Riverside-San Bernardino, Calif. (7,900 jobs, 7 percent); Baton Rouge, La. (6,700 jobs, 15 percent); Austin-Round Rock, Texas (5,900 jobs, 7 percent); and Forth Worth-Arlington, Texas (5,900 jobs, 8 percent). The largest percentage gain was in Lawton, Okla. (29 percent, 400 jobs), followed by Wenatchee, Wash. (27 percent, 800 jobs); Fairbanks, Alaska (25 percent, 500 jobs); and Redding, Calif. (22 percent, 800 jobs).

Construction employment declined over the year in 83 metro areas and was unchanged in 44 areas. The largest job loss occurred in New York City (-7,000 jobs, -5 percent), followed by Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minn.-Wis. (-6,100 jobs, -8 percent); Nassau County-Suffolk County, N.Y. (-4,500 jobs, -5 percent); Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, Ore.-Wash. (-4,900 jobs, -6 percent); and Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Wash. (-4,600 jobs, -4 percent). The largest percentage decrease occurred in Decatur, Ill. (-24 percent, -900 jobs), followed by Augusta-Richmond County, Ga.-S.C. (-15 percent, -2,500 jobs); Weirton-Steubenville, W.Va.-Ohio (-11 percent, -200 jobs); Duluth, Minn.-Wis. (-10 percent, -900 jobs); and Bellingham, Wash. (-10 percent, -900 jobs).

Association officials cautioned that a recent proposed rulemaking by the Biden administration threatened to make it harder for the construction industry to prepare future workers. They said the U.S. Department of Labor’s proposed National Apprenticeship System Enhancements rule would restrict the industry’s ability to create new registered apprenticeship training programs, which offer one of the most effective ways to train future workers.

“Everyone in the industry understands that we need an all-of-the-above approach to preparing future workers,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Yet this administration is proposing rules that narrow, instead of expand, opportunities to train future construction professionals.”

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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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