Construction employment declined in 31 states from July 2011 to July 2012 and in 28 states in the past month, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America of Labor Department data. Association officials noted that construction employment decreased in the majority of states as public construction funding continues to shrink, offsetting gains in home building and nonresidential construction.
"Public construction cuts in particular are taking their toll on construction employment in many parts of the country," says Ken Simonson, the association's chief economist. "With economic growth remaining sluggish, there is a chance construction employment will begin to slip in even more places."
The economist said that among states losing construction jobs during the past year, Alaska lost the highest percentage (-15 percent, -2,200 jobs), followed by Mississippi (-10.8 percent, -5,300 jobs) and Arkansas (-10.4 percent, -4,900 jobs). Florida lost the most jobs (-16,900, -5.2 percent), followed by Illinois (-9,800, -5 percent) and Missouri (-9,500 jobs, -9.2 percent).
Simonson noted that 18 states and the District of Columbia added construction jobs between July 2011 and July 2012, while construction employment remained stagnant for the year in Hawaii. North Dakota added the highest percentage of new construction jobs (16 percent, 3,800 jobs), followed by D.C. (12.2 percent, 1,500 jobs) and Nebraska (10 percent, 4,100 jobs). California added the most new construction jobs over the past 12 months (27,300, 5 percent), followed by Texas (22,900, 4.1 percent) and Indiana (9,300, 7.8 percent).
Arkansas had the steepest percentage decline among states that lost construction jobs for the month (-4.1 percent, -1,800 jobs), followed by Missouri (-3.8 percent, -3,700 jobs) and Montana (-3.5 percent, -900 jobs). The largest number of construction job losses in July occurred in Ohio (-4,300, -2.4 percent), followed by Missouri and New Jersey (-2,700, -2.2 percent).
Twenty states plus D.C. added construction jobs between June and July, while construction employment was stagnant for the month in Utah and Alaska. The highest percentage gains for the month occurred in Rhode Island (3.8 percent, 600 jobs), followed by Hawaii (2.9 percent, 800 jobs) and West Virginia (2.6 percent, 900 jobs). New York added the most jobs during the month (2,700 jobs, 0.9 percent), followed by Indiana (2,400 jobs, 1.9 percent) and Oregon (1,200, 1.7 percent).
Association officials cautioned that construction employment would continue to suffer from the impact of ongoing cuts to public construction budgets. Worse, if economic growth slows as businesses worry about future tax uncertainty, private demand for construction is likely to lag. They urged officials in Washington to act quickly to provide employers with tax certainty and enact long-delayed infrastructure measures for water and other systems.
"The longer Washington waits to act on vital tax and infrastructure measures, the more construction workers will lose their jobs," says Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's chief executive officer. "The best way to boost employment and help the economy is to invest in basics like clean water and set predictable tax rates."