The association’s latest contractor survey shows that project cancellations and a lack of new orders forced firms to reduce their headcount. Association officials said that more layoffs are likely for the industry amid spiking materials prices and uncertain demand for new projects.
“More contractors are telling us they are cutting headcount than adding workers, which is consistent with the new data showing the industry is shrinking in many parts of the country,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “More than three-fourth of the firms said projects had been postponed or cancelled, while only one out of five reported winning new work or an add-on to an existing project in the previous two months as a result of the pandemic. That imbalance makes further job losses likely in many metros.”
Construction employment fell in 225, or 63%, of 358 metro areas between January 2020 and January 2021. Industry employment was stagnant in 41 additional metro areas, while only 92 metro areas—26%—added construction jobs.
AGC officials are urging Congress and the Biden administration to work together to address rising materials prices and supply chain backups and to invest in infrastructure. They are asking the administration to end tariffs on key construction materials, including steel and timber, work with shippers to get deliveries back on track and pass the significant new infrastructure investments the president has promised.
“The construction industry won’t be able to fully recover and start adding jobs in significant numbers as long as materials prices continue to spike, deliveries remain unreliable and demand remains uncertain,” said Stephen Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Federal officials can’t fix every problem, but they can help by removing tariffs, helping hard-hit shippers and boosting investments in the nation’s infrastructure.”
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land in Texas lost the largest number of construction jobs over the 12-month period (-32,900 jobs, -14%), followed by New York City (-23,000 jobs, -15%); Midland, Texas (-11,100 jobs, -29%); and Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights, Illinois (-10,400 jobs, -9%). Lake Charles, Louisiana, had the largest percentage decline (-40%, -8,100 jobs), followed by Odessa, Texas (-37%, -7,600 jobs); Midland; and Laredo, Texas (-27%, -1,100 jobs).
Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, California, added the most construction jobs over 12 months (3,500 jobs, 5%), followed by Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, Ind. (3,100 jobs, 6%); Boise, Idaho (2,500 jobs, 9%); and Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Washington (2,100 jobs, 2%). Sierra Vista-Douglas, Arizona had the highest percentage increase (42%, 1,000 jobs), followed by Bay City, Michigan. (18%, 200 jobs); and Auburn-Opelika, Alabama. (15%, 400 jobs).