Few states were immune from construction employment declines this July based on an analysis  of federal employment data released today by the Associated General Contractors of America . That analysis found that 47 states saw declines in construction employment, while only two states saw increases and one saw no change in construction employment between July 2008 and July 2009.
“There aren’t a lot of places construction workers can turn to avoid the steep layoffs sweeping the construction industry right now,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Sadly, construction workers are feeling the full impact of declining state spending, a near halt in office and retail construction and stimulus spending that – with too many programs – has yet to materialize.”
Sandherr noted that each of the five hardest hit states in July saw construction employment declines greater than 20 percent over the previous year. The worst hit, Arizona, has a 28 percent decrease in construction employment, while Nevada (25.1 percent), Connecticut (21.9 percent), Kentucky (20.8 percent) and Tennessee (20.2) were all close behind. Taken together, those five states employ 141,600 fewer construction workers than they did a year ago.
Even in the states with the most positive figures, the numbers were less than encouraging, Sandherr added. While Louisiana and North Dakota both saw increases in construction employment, 3.6 percent and 2.8 percent respectively, they accounted for a net increase of only 5,500 construction jobs over the previous year. Combined with the rest of the “best” performing states – Mississippi (no change), Nebraska (a 3.8 percent decline) and South Dakota (a 3.9 percent decline) – the top five states accounted for a net increase of just 2,700 construction jobs.
Sandherr said that new employment figures underscore the need for federal and state officials to move faster in allocating the estimated $135 billion in stimulus-funded construction programs. A recent survey of construction firms found that few firms outside of the transportation arena have yet to benefit from the range of construction projects promised by the stimulus, he noted.
“Finding a way to accelerate the construction portion of the stimulus will go a long way in bringing desperate construction workers a much-needed opportunity to put their skills to use again,” Sandherr said. “As the numbers unfortunately indicate, there’s plenty of construction capacity standing by to help rebuild the American economy.”
View the association’s state-by-state construction employment analysis at: http://www.agc.org/galleries/econ/State%20Empl%20200907.pdf