Economy Watch: Construction Growth Forges On

Despite stalled job creation in May, the construction industry is still growing in most major metro areas.
Credit: AGC of America, State Employment Map.

State Employment Map, Credit: AGC of America

Though the May jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics was a disappointment overall (up only 38,000 jobs), one month is only one month, and strong years can have weak months. In any case, the construction industry in most parts of the country is still growing, according to a separate recent report by the Associated General Contractors of America.

Construction employment rose between April 2015 and April 2016 in two-thirds of the nation’s metro areas. Also, spending on most types of structures increased for the year despite a drop in the latest month, according to a new analysis of federal data on employment and construction spending by the organization.

“Construction growth remains widely distributed by location and project type,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist, in a statement. “However, job gains were uneven: many states included metros with large gains but also areas that lost jobs. Some of those metros might have added construction jobs if contractors had been able to find enough qualified workers. The dearth of skilled construction workers in many areas threatens to hold down the extent of job gains in the coming months.”

There were construction employment gains in the past year in 235 out of 358 metro areas, losses in 67 areas, and no change in 56. Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine added the most construction jobs (14,900 jobs, up 17 percent), followed by Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford (8,800 jobs, up 15 percent); New York City (7,800 jobs, up 6 percent); and Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale (7,200 jobs, up 7 percent).

The largest job losses year-over-year in April 2016 were mostly energy-related: Midland, Texas (down 2,200 jobs, or 8 percent), followed by Odessa, Texas (which is a neighboring city in the oil patch, down 1,900 jobs, or 11 percent) and Omaha-Council Bluffs (down 1,800 jobs, down 7 percent).