The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), the leading lobby for the construction industry, contends the best way “to get America building again” is for Congress to increase investments in highway, transit and infrastructure construction as a key component of the “jobs bill” that will be worked up on Capitol Hill.
AGC said it is taking this stand based on data newly released by the Dept. of Labor that shows construction workers suffered even more job losses in 49 states plus the District of Columbia in October compared to a year ago. Only North Dakota has added construction jobs this year, AGC noted, and Nevada and Arizona have experienced the largest declines in construction jobs.
“A shockingly large portion of the construction industry’s workforce has simply evaporated,” said Ken Simonson, AGC chief economist. He pointed out that the construction unemployment rate of 18.7%t was the highest of any sector in October. What’s more, he said construction accounted for one-fifth of all job losses in the past year-- even though the sector employs only one out of 20 workers.
According to the AGC analysis, the five biggest percentage losses in construction employment over the year occurred in Nevada (26.9 %t, or 30,200 jobs), Arizona (24.2%, or 42,600 jobs), Tennessee (22.3%, or 29,300 jobs), Kentucky (20.8%, or 17,600 jobs) and Connecticut (19.3% or 12,500 jobs).
Simonson noted that 40 states saw double-digit percentage decreases in construction employment for the year. Construction employment, meanwhile, only expanded in North Dakota during the past year, with an increase of 1.9 %, totaling 400 jobs.
When compared to September 2009, Simonson stated, 33 states shed construction jobs (including Washington, DC), 18 added construction jobs, and 2 states remained stable. He said that compares favorably with the month-over-month change from August to September 2009, when 36 states lost, 13 (including DC) added and 2 saw no change in the number of construction jobs.
The largest monthly gains were a 4.6% rise in Michigan (5,400 jobs); 3.4 %t in Wisconsin (3,500 jobs), 3.3% in Indiana (4,000 jobs), 2.6% in West Virginia (900 jobs) and 2.3% in Rhode Island (400 jobs).
The largest percentage losses for the month were a 3.7% decline in Mississippi (2,000 jobs), a 3.4% decline in North Carolina (6,600 jobs), a 2.9% decline in Idaho (1,100 jobs), a 2.8% decline in Colorado (3,700 jobs), and a 2.4% decline in Oregon (1,900 jobs).
“Because construction workers have carried the burden of the downturn’s job losses, the easiest way to cut unemployment and boost the economy is to get America building again,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, AGC’s CEO. “Increasing investments in highway, transit and infrastructure construction must be the core component to the ‘jobs’ bill that Washington officials are committing to pass soon.”