WASHINGTON, DC–Construction employment increased in nearly two out of three U.S. metro areas between November 2020 and November 2021, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America of new government employment data.
Association officials said the job gains were welcome news for the industry but cautioned that it will be difficult for construction levels to return to pre-pandemic levels amid tight labor market conditions.
“It isn’t surprising that construction employment has picked up in most metros over the past year, given the strong economic rebound most of the country has experienced,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “But with record job openings in construction, it’s clear that even more metros should be in the plus column if contractors could find the workers they need and get materials delivered on schedule.”
Construction employment increased in 237 or 66 percent of 358 metro areas over the last 12 months. Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade, Calif. added the most construction jobs (7,300 jobs, 10 percent), followed by Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Wash. (7,000 jobs, 7 percent); Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights, Ill. (6,500 jobs, 5 percent); Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Mass. (6,200 jobs, 8 percent); and Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minn.-Wis. (6,100 jobs, 7 percent). Sioux Falls, S.D. had the highest percentage increase, 19 percent (2,000 jobs). It was followed by three metros with 16 percent increases: Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas (3,200 jobs); Atlantic City-Hammonton, N.J. (800 jobs) and Waterbury, Conn. (500 jobs).
Construction employment declined from a year earlier in 74 metros and was flat in 47. Nassau County-Suffolk County, N.Y. lost the most jobs (-6,300 or -8 percent), followed by Orange-Rockland-Westchester counties, N.Y. (-3,900 jobs, -9 percent); Calvert-Charles-Prince George’s counties, Md. (-2,700 jobs, -8 percent); Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas (-2,600 jobs, -1 percent) and Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, Tenn. (-2,600 jobs, -5 percent). The largest percentage declines were in Evansville, Ind.-Ky. (-18 percent, -1,800 jobs); Leominster-Gardner, Mass. (-14 percent, -300 jobs); Anchorage, Alaska (-11 percent, -1,100 jobs); Altoona, Pa. (-10 percent, -300 jobs); and Florence-Muscle Shoals, Ala. (-10 percent, -400 jobs).
Association officials said most construction firms report they are struggling to find enough qualified workers to hire. The officials called on the Biden administration to boost funding for career and technical education to expose more students to construction career opportunities. They noted that federal officials put six dollars into collegiate education and preparation for every dollar they currently invest in career and technical education.
“The gap in federal funding for career and technical education is making it hard for sectors like construction, manufacturing and shipping to find workers interested in those career tracks,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “We are doing everything we can to recruit people into high-paying construction careers but exposing more students to construction skills will certainly help.”