Construction employment in October remained depressed compared to pre-pandemic levels in three-fourths of states despite the fact 36 states and Washington, D.C., added new construction jobs in October, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America of recent government employment data. Association officials add that demand for most types of nonresidential projects remains weak amid pandemic-related uncertainty and urged federal officials to enact a new round of coronavirus recovery measures.

“An increasing number of nonresidential contractors are experiencing cancellations that are forcing them to lay off workers,” says Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Although single family homebuilding and remodeling contractors are adding workers, most states are likely to have a net loss of construction workers soon, especially from high-paying, nonresidential jobs.”

Seasonally adjusted construction employment in October was lower than in February—the last month before the pandemic forced many contractors to suspend work—in 37 states, Simonson notes. New York lost the most construction jobs over that span (-41,600 jobs or -10.1%), closely followed by Texas (-41,500 jobs, -5.2%). Vermont had the largest percentage loss (-21.8%, -3,200 jobs), followed by North Dakota (-13.2%, -3,900 jobs).

Only 13 states and the District of Columbia added construction jobs from February to October. Virginia added the most (7,100 jobs, 3.5%), followed by Kentucky (4,300 jobs, 5.4%) and Alabama (4,300 jobs, 4.5%). South Dakota posted the largest percentage gain (9.4%, 2,300 jobs), followed by Kentucky.

Construction employment decreased from September to October in 12 states, increased in 36 states and D.C., and was unchanged in South Dakota and Utah. Maryland shed the most construction jobs from September to October (-2,600 jobs or -1.4%), followed by Georgia (-1,800 jobs, -0.9%). Maryland also had the largest percentage decrease, followed by Delaware (-1.4%, -300 jobs).

California added the most construction jobs over the month (26,300 jobs, 3.1%), followed by Texas (9,400 jobs, 1.3%). Alaska had the largest percentage gain for the month (10.1%, 1,500 jobs), followed by Iowa (7%, 4,700 jobs).

Association officials urge members of Congress to craft a new series of coronavirus relief measures to help offset declining demand for most types of nonresidential construction. Those measures must include new infrastructure investments, liability reforms to protect honest firms from unwarranted pandemic lawsuits and an extension of, and new flexibility for, measures such as the Paycheck Protection Program. They also urge Congress to ensure the current administration does not move forward with its plans to tax firms that used Paycheck Protection Program loans to protect essential construction jobs.

“With the pandemic raging again in most parts of the country, countless construction jobs are at risk as owners cancel or delay construction projects amid uncertainty about the future,” says Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Enacting needed new recovery measures now will help protect many good-paying construction careers during what will likely be a difficult winter for the economy.”