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Sat August 08 2020

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Mixed picture emerges for US construction jobs

20 Jul Construction employment rose from May to June in 31 states and the District of Columbia (DC) but slipped in 18 others.

12-month percentage change in construction employment by state, June 2019 - June 2020
12-month percentage change in construction employment by state, June 2019 - June 2020

Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) has warned the gains may have stalled and that job losses will resume without federal funding.

It released an analysis of government employment data and a compilation of weekly site hours by construction technology firm Procore.

“The widespread job gains in June follow even more universal increases in May,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “But the government’s employment snapshot was based on payrolls during the week of June 12. More recent data collected by Procore on hours worked on jobsites suggests employment topped out around mid-June and may have begun to decline.”

Simonson observed that users of Procore’s software record the number of hours worked each week on their construction sites. Procore reported that hours reached a peak of 15.1 million during the week of 7th-13th June. Since then, preliminary totals have slipped, to 15.0 million during the following week and 14.6 million during the week of 21st-27th June.

Procore has been mapping total site hours in each state since the week of 1st March, around the time of the initial restrictions on businesses in some states. Hours have increased in most states as shutdown orders were relaxed and the weather grew more favourable for construction in many locations. Nevertheless, in 12 states Procore users logged fewer site hours in late June than in early March, Simonson said.

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New York added the most construction jobs from May to June (42,000 jobs or 14.2%). Massachusetts had the largest percentage increase (16.3%, 19,700 construction jobs). Construction employment declined from May to June in 18 states and was unchanged in Alaska. Louisiana lost the most construction jobs (-3,900 jobs, -3.1%). Nevada had the highest percentage loss (-3.5%, -3,500 jobs).

From June 2019 to June 2020, construction employment increased in 15 states, decreased in 34 states and DC, and held steady in Wyoming. Utah added the most construction jobs over the year (10,200 jobs, 9.4%). South Dakota had the largest percentage increase (13.7%, 3,200 jobs). Both states set all-time highs, in records dating to 1990. New York lost the most construction jobs over the year (68,300 jobs, -16.8%). The largest percentage decline occurred in Vermont (-29.4%, -4,500 jobs).

Association officials warned that recent flare-ups of coronavirus across most states mean there will soon be more project cancellations, forcing contractors to lay off workers again. They urged Congress and the Trump administration to promptly enact new infrastructure funding measures and backfill gaps that have opened in state and local government budgets, so that public construction does not decline precipitously.

“Only the federal government has the means to keep infrastructure and other needed public construction on track,” said Stephen Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “It would be tragic to miss the opportunity to support the economy, keep thousands of construction employees at work, and invest in much-needed upgrades to roads, transportation facilities, water and sewer systems.”

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