Construction employment declined in 110 out of 358 metro areas between December 2015 and December 2016, according to the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials noted that the disappointing new jobs data coincides with data showing a drop in most infrastructure spending in 2016 and comes out as a broad coalition of business, labor, and transportation interests from across the country urged President Trump to deliver on his promise to rebuild the country's aging infrastructure.
"There are two main reasons so few areas added construction jobs last year — they couldn't find enough new workers to hire or they couldn't find enough work to require new hiring," said Ken Simonson, the association's chief economist. "In some markets, the solution is more workforce development measures, while other markets need new demand for construction before firms will begin adding jobs. In particular, spending on critical transportation, sewage, and water infrastructure declined last year."
The largest job losses from December 2015 to December 2016 were in Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX (-11,200 jobs, -5%), followed by Orange-Rockland-Westchester, NY (-5,500 jobs, -12%), and Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA (-5,200 jobs, -4%). The largest percentage declines for the past year were in Kankakee, IL (-15%, -200 jobs), Casper, WY (-13%, -400 jobs), and Wichita, KS (-13%, -2,100 jobs).
Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO (10,400 jobs, 11%) added the most construction jobs during the past year, followed by Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL (9,700 jobs, 15%), Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV (8,700 jobs, 16%), and Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL (8,700 jobs, 13 %). The largest percentage gains occurred in Boise City, Idaho (18%, 3,400 jobs), followed by El Centro, CA (17%, 500 jobs), Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, and Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford. The number of metro areas with year-over-year job increases — 183 or 51% —was the lowest since September 2012, the economist noted.
Among major infrastructure categories, public spending fell 18% over the year for sewage and waste disposal systems; 5.3% for transportation facilities such as transit, airports, and passenger rail; and 0.9% for water supply. Highway and street construction posted a modest increase of 1.5%.
Association officials said the new metro construction employment data comes out as hundreds of employers from across the country are urging President Trump to deliver on his promise to invest in rebuilding the nation's aging infrastructure. In particular, the firms noted that aging and congested transportation networks are affecting their bottom line and undermining their ability to add jobs.
"The business community is counting on President Trump to act on his pledge to rebuild our aging infrastructure," said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's chief executive officer. "The fact is, employers can't compete and succeed if their workers are stuck in traffic and their products are being rerouted around unsafe bridges and crumbling roads."