August Construction Employment Lags Pre-Pandemic Peak in 39 States As COVID, Supply Problems Hold Back Recovery

Construction employment in August remained below the levels reached before the pre-pandemic peak in February 2020 in 39 states, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America of government employment data.

“Construction employment slipped or stagnated from July to August in half the states as the delta variant of COVID-19 affected workers and caused some owners to delay projects,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “In addition, more than half of the respondents in our latest workforce survey reported experiencing projects that have been canceled, postponed, or scaled back.”

From February 2020—the month before the pandemic caused project shutdowns and cancellations—to last month, construction employment increased in only 11 states and Washington. Texas shed the most construction jobs over the period (-56,700 jobs or -7.3%), followed by New York (-50,700 jobs, -12.4%) and California (-34,900 jobs, -3.8%). Wyoming recorded the largest percentage loss (-16.6%, -3,800 jobs), followed by Louisiana (-14.4%, -19,700 jobs) and New York.

Utah added the most construction jobs since February 2020 (7,400 jobs, 6.5%), followed by North Carolina (4,500, 1.9%), Idaho (3,700 jobs, 6.7%), and South Carolina (3,700 jobs, 3.5%). The largest percentage gains were in South Dakota (7.1%, 1,700 jobs), followed by Idaho and Utah.

From July to August construction employment decreased in 22 states, increased in 25 states and Washington, and was unchanged in three states. The largest decline over the month occurred in Kansas, which lost 2,400 construction jobs or 3.7%. Georgia lost the second-most jobs (-2,300 jobs, -1.1%). The second-largest percentage decline since July, -2.1%, occurred in Alabama (-1,900 jobs) and Wyoming (-400 jobs).

Nevada added the most construction jobs between July and August (3,000 jobs, 3.3%), followed by New York (2,600 jobs, 0.7%) and Tennessee (2,600 jobs, 2.0%). New Hampshire had the largest percentage gain (4.4%, 1,200 jobs), followed by Nevada and Oklahoma (2.3%, 1,800 jobs).

Association officials warned that construction employment was being impacted in many parts of the country because of supply chain challenges and growing market uncertainty caused by the resurgent Delta variant. They said new federal infrastructure investments would provide a needed boost in demand and help put more people to work in construction careers.

“It is vital that Congress complete work on the bipartisan infrastructure bill before the end of month,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Otherwise, funding will stop for much-needed highway and other public works projects and many more construction workers will lose their jobs.”

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