Construction employment declined in 53 percent (191 of 358) of U.S. metros from December 2019 to December 2020, according to an analysis of new government data from the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC).
Only 37 percent (134 of 358) metros added construction jobs during the year-over-year period, AGC says, while employment was stagnant in 33 metros.
Despite an upswing in homebuilding and remodeling, AGC officials say a large number of contractors are forced to lay off employees as project pipelines dry up because private owners and public agencies are hesitant to commit to new construction.
“A dearth of new construction work is forcing more and more contractors to lay off employees once they complete projects started before the pandemic hit in early 2020,” says Ken Simonson, AGC’s chief economist. “Private nonresidential construction spending tumbled 10 percent from December 2019 to December 2020 and public work has been slowing since last March, according to recent Census Bureau data.”
The Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas, market saw the largest drop in construction employment (down 24,500 jobs; 10 percent) from December 2019 to December 2020. Also experiencing significant employment decline over the year was New York City (19,100 jobs; 12 percent); Midland, Texas (9,200 jobs; 23 percent); Montgomery-Bucks-Chester counties, Pennsylvania (9,100 jobs; 17 percent); and Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colorado (6,900 jobs; 6 percent).
On the positive side, the Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, Indiana, market saw the largest gain in year-over-year construction employment (5,600 jobs; 10 percent), followed by northern Virginia (5,300 jobs; 7 percent); Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Washington (4,900 jobs; 5 percent); Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, Maryland (4,800 jobs; 6 percent); and Kansas City, Missouri (3,300 jobs; 11 percent).
AGC, however, says job losses are likely to continue as state and local budgets undermine demand for public projects, leading association officials to push for federal infrastructure investment.
“Helping people now is important, but planning to rebuild our economy is essential to recovering from the economic pain of the pandemic,” says Stephen Sandherr, CEO of AGC. “It is not enough to just want a better economy; you have to build it.”