According to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America of government employment data, construction employment in April remained below the pre-pandemic high set in February 2020 in 36 states and Washington, despite increases from March to April in 26 states. Association officials said the sector’s recovery was being undermined by increases in materials prices, delays in receiving key construction supplies and labor shortages.
“Today’s numbers show that construction has yet to fully recover from the effects of the pandemic in most parts of the country,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Even where employment has topped pre-pandemic levels, the gains are likely due mainly to feverish homebuilding and remodeling, not to widespread resumption of nonresidential building and infrastructure projects.”
Seasonally adjusted construction employment in April exceeded the February 2020 level in only 14 states. Utah added the most jobs (5,100 jobs or 4.5%), trailed by Idaho (4,400 jobs, 8.0%), Washington (3,800 jobs, 1.7%) and South Carolina (1,900 jobs, 1.8%). Idaho added the highest percentage, followed by South Dakota (6.3%, 1,500 jobs), Utah and Rhode Island (3.5%, 700 jobs).
Employment declined from the February 2020 level in 36 states and Washington. Texas lost the most construction jobs over the period (-44,800 jobs or -5.7%), followed by New York (-29,300 jobs, -9.1%), California (-27,600 jobs, -3.0%), Louisiana (-19,600 jobs, -14.3%) and New Jersey (-15,600 jobs, -9.5%). Louisiana recorded the largest percentage loss, followed by Wyoming (-13.5%, -3,100 jobs), New Jersey, New York and West Virginia (-8.7%, -2,900 jobs).
For the month, construction employment increased in 26 states, decreased in 21 and held steady in three states and Washington. Illinois added the most construction jobs (4,000 jobs, 1.8%), followed by Pennsylvania (3,400 jobs, 1.4%), Wisconsin (2,900 jobs, 2.4%), Kentucky (1,900 jobs, 2.4%) and North Carolina (1,600 jobs, 0.7%). New Hampshire had the largest percentage gain (3.2%, 900 jobs), followed by Rhode Island (2.4%, 500 jobs), Kentucky and Wisconsin. Texas lost the most construction jobs for the month (-13,600 jobs, -1.8 percent), followed by New York, (-3,900 jobs, -1.0%) and Iowa (-3,100 jobs, -3.9%). Iowa had the largest percentage loss, followed by Alabama (-2.4%, -2,200 jobs) and Texas.
Association officials noted that rapid increases in the cost of many construction materials are hammering firms still recovering from the pandemic. Deliveries of many materials are often delayed because of manufacturing and shipping backups. In addition, many firms report having trouble finding workers to hire amid continued school closures, lingering worries about the pandemic and elevated unemployment benefits.
“Federal officials can give the industry a needed boost by removing tariffs on key construction materials such as lumber, steel, and aluminum, and taking steps to ease supply-chain backups,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “It is also time to end barriers keeping workers home, including reopening schools and ending the unemployment supplements.”