Three-fourths of all metro areas added construction jobs between July 2020 and last month, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America of government employment data. Association officials noted that while many metro areas have added jobs since last summer, construction employment still lags pre-pandemic levels in many areas as the industry faces a host of challenges.
“The rapid spread of the delta variant of coronavirus, along with soaring materials costs and multiple supply-chain difficulties, appears to be causing some project owners to delay starting construction,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “However, the virus flare-up threatens further job gains, particularly because construction workers have a lower vaccination rate and thus a higher risk of becoming ill than other occupations.”
Construction employment increased in 268 out of 358 metro areas over the last 12 months. Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Wash., added the most construction jobs (10,200 jobs, 10%), followed by Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade, Calif. (9,100 jobs, 13%); Pittsburgh (8,300 jobs, 14%); and Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights, Ill., (7,700 jobs, 6%). Waterbury, Conn. had the highest percentage increase (29%, 800 jobs), followed by Lawrence-Methuen Town-Salem, Mass. (26%, 900 jobs); Hanford-Corcoran, Calif. (22%, 200 jobs) and Bloomington, Ill. (21%, 600 jobs).
Construction employment declined from a year earlier in 54 metros and held steady in 36. Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas lost the most jobs: 7,000 or 3%, followed by New York City (-6,300 jobs, -4%); Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall, Fla. (-3,500 jobs, -7%); Nassau County-Suffolk County, N.Y. (-2,400 jobs, -3%) and Calvert-Charles-Prince George’s, Md. (-2,400 jobs, -7%). The largest percentage declines, 11%, were in Atlantic City-Hammonton, N.J. (-600 jobs) and Evansville, Ind.-Ky. (-1,100 jobs), followed by 9% decreases in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (-600 jobs) and Victoria, Texas (-300 jobs).
Association officials urged federal officials to take steps to address supply-chain woes and boost demand for many types of construction services. They continued to call for the removal of tariffs on a host of critical construction materials, including steel and aluminum. And they urged the House of Representatives to quickly pass bipartisan infrastructure legislation that would give a needed boost to construction demand at a time when many private-sector owners are rethinking projects amid rising prices and the spiking coronavirus cases.
“Washington officials have the ability to help offset soaring materials prices and boost flagging demand for commercial construction,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s CEO. “The president should put an immediate end to tariffs that are needlessly inflating the cost of key materials and members of the House should rapidly approve the bipartisan infrastructure bill.”