Construction Employment Surpasses Pre-Pandemic Peak in Majority of Metro Areas

Construction employment increased from February 2020—the month before the coronavirus pandemic—to February 2022 in nearly three-fifths of U.S. metro areas, according to the Associated General Contractors of America of new government employment data. Association officials said it is getting harder to find workers and urged officials to invest more in construction career training and education programs.

“The rebound in construction employment in most metros shows there is robust demand for infrastructure and nonresidential buildings, as well as housing,” says Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “But contractors in many areas say they would hire even more workers if there were enough qualified candidates.”

There were 364,000 job openings in construction at the end of February—the most for any February since the government first compiled the data in 2001, Simonson noted. Openings exceeded the 342,000 workers hired by construction firms that month, which implies contractors wanted to hire twice as many employees as they could, he says.

Construction employment rose in 209 or 58% of 358 metro areas over the 24-month period. Salt Lake City added the most construction jobs (5,100 jobs, 11%), followed by Jacksonville, Fla., (4,800 jobs, 10%); Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, Tenn. (4,000 jobs, 8%); and Boise City, Idaho (3,800 jobs, 14%). Walla Walla, Wash., had the highest percentage gain (36%, 400 jobs), followed by Decatur, Ill. (32%, 900 jobs); Lawrence-Methuen Town-Salem, Mass.-N.H. (24%, 800 jobs); and Lake Havasu City-Kingman, Ariz. (23%, 800 jobs).

Construction employment declined in 109 metro areas from the February 2020 level and was stagnant in 40 areas. New York City lost the most jobs (-25,500 or -16%), followed by Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas (-23,400 jobs, -10%) and Baton Rouge, La. (-6,800 jobs, -14%). The largest percentage declines were in Odessa, Texas (-27%, -5,500 jobs); Greeley, Colo. (-24%, -4,700 jobs); and Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas (-22%, -4,700 jobs).

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