Recent federal construction employment data indicates that a spike in construction employment growth within the District of Columbia in April isn’t enough to overcome the general decline in the Washington metropolitan area since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020.
The Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America reports in a recent of federal employment data that DC gained 200 construction jobs — a 1.3% percent increase — in April, ranking it fifth in the nation.
However, while data for Virginia and Maryland isn’t broken down into the DC-area suburbs, neither of the adjoining states fared nearly as well — and both have much larger overall construction employment markets. Maryland lost 800 jobs (0.5%) and Virginia declined by 1,100 jobs (also 0.5%) ranking the states 36th in the nation for the month.
If you look at things since the start of the pandemic in February 2020, DC has a net loss of 200 jobs (1.3%) while Maryland lost 5,600 jobs (3.3%) and Virginia construction employment declined by 1,300 (0.6%). This puts the three areas at between 37th and 45th in the nation.
“Construction employment gains have stalled in many states in recent months as the pool of available workers has dried up,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “It will be hard to satisfy demand for private projects and infrastructure unless more workers are available to fill the record number of openings.”
Simonson noted that government data from the monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey show that there were 415,000 job openings in the construction at the end of March. That was the highest March total since the series began in 2001 and constituted a 20 percent jump in openings from one year earlier. Openings exceeded the 388,000 employees hired during that month, implying that construction firms would have added twice as many employees if they had been available, the economist asserted.
From February 2020—the month before the pandemic caused projects to be halted or canceled—to April 2022, construction employment increased in 32, states, declined in 17 states and the District of Columbia, and was unchanged in Alaska. Utah added the most construction jobs since February 2020 (16,300 jobs, 14.3 percent), followed by Florida (15,500 jobs, 2.7 percent) and Tennessee (13,200 jobs, 10.0 percent). Utah had the largest percentage gain, followed by Montana (13.3 percent, 4,100 jobs) and South Dakota (12.5 percent, 3,000 jobs).
New York shed the most construction jobs over 26 months (-27,700 jobs, -6.8 percent), followed by Pennsylvania (-15,600 jobs, -5.8 percent) and Texas (-10,800 jobs, -1.4 percent). The largest percentage losses were in New York, Kentucky (-6.2 percent, -5,000 jobs), and Pennsylvania.
In April, 27 states and D.C. added construction jobs, 21 states lost jobs, and there was no change in Alaska and Rhode Island. Florida added the most construction jobs (4,300 jobs, 0.7 percent), followed by Texas (3,600 jobs, 0.5 percent) and Ohio (3,300 jobs, 1.4 percent). Delaware had the largest percentage gain (2.1 percent, 500 jobs), followed by South Dakota (1.5 percent, 400 jobs), Ohio and Montana (1.4 percent, 500 jobs).
California lost the most construction jobs last month (-13,200 jobs, -1.4 percent), followed by North Carolina (-5,900 jobs, -2.4 percent) and New Jersey (-2,600 jobs, -1.6 percent). Arkansas had the largest percentage loss (-2.7 percent, -1,500 jobs), followed by North Carolina and Kentucky (-2.1 percent, -1,600 jobs).
Association officials urged public officials to boost investments in career and technical education to help entice more people to pursue high-paying careers in construction. They noted that the federal government invests only a fraction of what it spends on “traditional” college preparation on programs focusing on careers like construction. “We need to let more young people know they can earn a good living and a lot of satisfaction by working in construction careers,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer.