Construction employment expanded in 192 metro areas, declined in 84 and was stagnant in 63 between December 2012 and December 2013, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released Feb. 5 by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials said that even with so many metro areas adding jobs for the year, only 20 metro areas topped previous construction employment peaks for the month.
“Growing demand for apartment and single-family construction was behind a lot of the growth in most metro areas last year,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist, noting that private residential construction spending soared by 18 percent from December 2012 to December 2013, while public sector spending slipped by 1 percent. “Employment in December 2013 was held down in many areas by unusually snowy or cold weather. With the weather and the economy both likely to improve soon, even more metros should post employment gains in the coming months.”
Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine, Calif., added the largest number of construction jobs in the past year (11,200 jobs, 15 percent); followed by Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, Ga. (8,400 jobs, 10 percent); San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, Calif. (5,700 jobs, 10 percent) and Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla. (5,700 jobs, 11 percent). The largest percentage gains occurred in Steubenville-Weirton, Ohio-W.V. (31 percent, 500 jobs); Lake Charles, La. (28 percent, 2,700 jobs) and Fargo, N.D.-Minn. (25 percent, 1,800 jobs).
The largest job losses from December 2012 to December 2013 were in Las Vegas-Paradise, Nev. (-3,300 jobs, -8 percent); followed by Edison-New Brunswick, N.J. (-3,200 jobs, -9 percent); Cincinnati-Middletown, Ohio-Ky. (-2,900 jobs, -8 percent) and Gary, Ind. (-2,800 jobs, -15 percent). The largest percentage decline for the past year was in Modesto, Calif. (-29 percent, -1,900 jobs); Gary, Ind.; Visalia-Porterville, Calif. (-13 percent, -500 jobs); Anniston-Oxford, Ala. (-11 percent, -100 jobs); Mobile, Ala. (-11 percent, -1,300 jobs) and Rockford, Ill. (-11 percent, -400 jobs).
Fargo, N.D.-Minn. experienced the largest percentage increase among the 20 cities that hit a new December construction employment high from the prior December peak (25 percent higher than in 2012). Corpus Christi, Texas, added the most jobs since reaching its prior December peak in 2012 (3,900 jobs). Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, Ariz., experienced the largest drop in total construction employment compared to its December 2006 peak (-81,300 jobs) while Lake Havasu City-Kingman, Ariz., experienced the largest percentage decline compared to its December 2005 peak (-76 percent).
Association officials urged Congress to act quickly to finalize water resources legislation that sets funding for port and waterways improvements. They noted that versions of the legislation have passed both houses of Congress and just need to be finalized and sent to the president. And they also urged Washington officials to pass a new six-year surface transportation bill before the current measure expires at the end of September.
“Congress has a real opportunity to help boost construction employment in many metro areas this year, and get aging infrastructure repaired at the same time,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer.