Construction employment grew in 273 out of 358 metro areas between December 2017 and December 2018, declined in 37 and was unchanged in 48, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released today by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials said the job gains came amid strong demand throughout 2018 for construction projects but noted that tight labor market conditions likely prevented additional job gains last year.
"Construction employment continued to expand in most parts of the country in 2018 as demand for many types of construction projects grew," said Ken Simonson, the association's chief economist. "As welcome as the job gains were, many firms would likely have added even more workers if labor market conditions were not so tight."
The Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas metro area added the most construction jobs during the past year (19,400 jobs, 9 percent). Other metro areas adding a large amount of construction jobs during the past 12 months include Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas (17,700 jobs, 13 percent); Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Ariz. (16,200 jobs, 14 percent); and Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Fla. (11,400 jobs, 15 percent). The largest percentage gain occurred in Weirton-Steubenville, W.Va.-Ohio (28 percent, 500 jobs), followed by Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, Conn. (23 percent, 4,300 jobs); Bridgeport-Stanford-Norwalk, Conn. (23 percent, 2,600 jobs) and Lewiston, Idaho-Wash. (23 percent, 300 jobs).
The largest job losses between December 2017 and December 2018 occurred in Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine, Calif. (-2,800 jobs, -3 percent), followed by San Diego-Carlsbad, Calif. (-1,900 jobs, -2 percent) and Honolulu (-1,500 jobs, -5 percent). The largest percentage decrease occurred in Lawrence-Methuen Town-Salem, Mass.-N.H. (-9 percent, -300 jobs), followed by Abilene, Texas (-7 percent, -300 jobs); Wichita Falls, Texas (-7 percent, -200 jobs) and Elmira, N.Y. (-7 percent, -100 jobs).
"There were 278,000 job openings in construction at the end of November, a record for the month, so it's likely that more metro areas would have had job gains in December if contractors had been able to find qualified workers," Simonson said.
Association officials said that workforce shortages in the construction sector are limiting the full economic benefits of robust demand for construction in many parts of the country. They urged federal officials to increase funding for career and technical education and to enact comprehensive immigration reform that will allow more people to legally work in construction.
"Exposing more high school students to construction as a career choice will help connect more young adults to high-paying careers in construction," said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's chief executive officer. "While reforming the nation's immigration laws will create more opportunities for workers to legally enter the country and begin contributing to the economy."