Construction employment increased in a majority of states in May, setting all-time highs in Louisiana and North Dakota, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America of Labor Department data. Association officials noted that construction demand remains very uneven and urged policy makers to expedite stalled public and private projects.
“The strongest recoveries in construction employment have occurred in states with oil and gas activity, while the steepest construction job losses have occurred in Sunbelt states,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “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 over the past 12 months, topping the previous peak set in November 2008. North Dakota gained 800 jobs in May and 900 jobs in the past year, exceeding the mark set in September 2012.
For the month, 27 states experienced a lift in construction employment, while 20 states and the District of Columbia lost construction jobs. South Dakota had 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. Employment was stable in Connecticut, Rhode Island and West Virginia.
Alaska had the steepest drop in construction employment from April to May (-7.8 percent, -1,400), followed by Nevada (-4.2 percent, -2,200). California lost the largest number of jobs between April and May (-8,500, -1.4 percent), followed by Florida (-7,500, -2.1 percent).
The latest job losses in Nevada brought the state’s construction employment to a level 66 percent below the peak set in June 2006. The next-largest drop in employment from peak levels was in Florida, where May 2013 employment was 50 percent below the June 2006 high-water mark. In spite of having added the most jobs of any state last month, Arizona’s construction employment remained 48 percent below its June 2006 peak.
Over the past 12 months, 32 states added construction jobs, 17 states and D.C. lost jobs and Idaho had no change. Texas added the most jobs (39,200, 6.7 percent), closely followed by California (38,500, 6.6 percent). Arizona had the steepest percentage increase (10.4 percent) and third highest total gain (11,900), followed in both categories by Louisiana (9.4 percent, 11,800). Despite its strong one-month job gains, Illinois lost the most jobs over the past year (-6,200, -3.3 percent), followed by North Carolina (-6,000, -3.5 percent). Montana had the highest year-over-year percentage drop (-9.7 percent, -2,300), followed by Rhode Island (-6.3 percent, -1,000).
Association officials said the wide range of job gains and losses show the need to adequately fund infrastructure investments and remove regulatory barriers to private investment. They urged policy makers in Washington to move ahead with overdue reauthorization of the Water Resources Development Act and the Keystone XL pipeline, among many other projects. “We need measures that will strengthen the economy and help the construction industry continue to add jobs,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer.