A construction industry ravaged by the recession received some promising news with word that the majority of states experienced an increase in construction employment during the month of May.
The recently released figures, which came from an analysis of Labor Department data by the Associated General Contractors of America, showed that 27 states experienced a rise in construction employment. The numbers were at all-time highs in North Dakota and Louisiana, thanks in large part to increased oil and gas activity in both states.
Twenty other states and the District of Columbia, however, continued to bleed construction jobs, the numbers showed.
“Recovery in the construction industry continues to come slower than the rest of the economy,” says Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “The strongest recoveries in construction employment have occurred in states with oil and gas activity, while the Sunbelt states have continued to struggle. However, patterns for the past year show that even some lagging states are beginning to add jobs.”
Louisiana added 2,100 construction jobs in May and 11,800 (9.4 percent) over the past 12 months, eclipsing the previous peak set in November 2008. North Dakota gained 800 jobs in May and 900 jobs (3.0 percent) in the past year, exceeding the mark it first set in September 2012.
South Dakota recorded the largest one-month percentage gain (4.1 percent, 800), followed by Vermont (3.7 percent, 500), Arizona (3.6 percent, 4,400), Iowa (3.5 percent, 2,200) and Missouri (3.5 percent, 3,600). Arizona added the largest number of jobs for the month, followed by Ohio (3,900, 2.3 percent), Illinois (3,900, 2.2 percent) and Missouri.
Construction employment remained stable in Connecticut, Rhode Island and West Virginia.
Alaska suffered the steepest drop from April to May, falling 7.8 percent for a loss of 1,400 jobs. Nevada didn’t fare much better, dropping 4.2 percent for a shortfall of 2,200 jobs. California suffered the largest number of jobs between April and May (-8,500, -1.4 percent), followed by Florida (-7,500, -2.1 percent).
The number of construction jobs in Nevada remains 66 percent down from the state’s peak in spring 2006, Simonson says. Florida’s numbers are 50 percent of what they were at the same time as Southern states that relied heavily on the robust housing boom of the early 2000s particularly struggle to get back on their feet.
Overall, however, 32 states have added construction jobs over the past year, while 17 states and D.C. lost jobs and Idaho had no change.
Association officials say the volatile range of job gains and losses show the need to adequately fund infrastructure investments and remove regulatory barriers to private investment so as to expedite the nation’s economic recovery.
“I think we’re going to see employment continue to rise,” Simonson says, “but I think it will be slow and it will be spotty.”