Construction employment grew in 253, or 71 percent, out of 358 metro areas between June 2018 and June 2019, declined in 61 and was unchanged in 44, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials said the employment gains would likely have been stronger if firms could find more qualified workers to hire.
"Demand for construction remains robust in most metro areas," said Ken Simonson, the association's chief economist. "But, with record job openings in construction and the lowest overall unemployment rate since 1969, it is likely even more metros would be adding construction workers if there were enough qualified jobseekers available."
The Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Ariz. metro area added the most construction jobs during the past year (13,200 jobs, 11 percent). Other metro areas adding a large amount of construction jobs during the past 12 months include Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif. (11,400 jobs, 8 percent); Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas (8,800 jobs, 6 percent); Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, Ga. (8,000 jobs, 6 percent); and Nassau County-Suffolk County N.Y. (7,600 jobs, 9 percent). The largest percentage gain occurred in Auburn-Opelika, Ala. (24 percent, 600 jobs) followed by Pocatello, Idaho (18 percent, 300 jobs); Camden, N.J. (17 percent, 4,000 jobs); Spokane-Spokane Valley, Wash. (16 percent, 2,400 jobs); Toledo, Ohio (14 percent, 2,100 jobs) and Monroe, Mich. (14 percent, 300 jobs).
The largest job losses between June 2018 and June 2019 occurred in Baton Rouge, La. (-5,400 jobs, -9 percent), followed by Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights, Ill. (-2,500 jobs, -2 percent); Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, N.C.-S.C. (-2,400 jobs, -4 percent); Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, Conn. (-1,600 jobs, -8 percent) and Longview, Texas (-1,500 jobs, -10 percent). The largest percentage decrease took place in Atlantic City-Hammonton, N.J. (-15 percent, -1,000 jobs) followed by Longview; Baton Rouge; Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford and Ithaca, N.Y. (-8 percent, -100 jobs).
Association officials said that one of the biggest challenges facing many construction firms is the lack of available, qualified workers to hire. Part of the problem is that the nation's higher education system does not place career and technical education on an equal footing with traditional college education. For example, federal Pell grants cannot be used for construction-focused training programs offered by community and technical colleges. They called on Congress and the administration to pass the bipartisan JOBS Act, which would remedy this Pell grant problem.
"It's time to reverse the federal funding bias against career and technical education and allow students interested in vocational education to have the same opportunities available to students attending four-year colleges," Sandherr said. "Creating a level playing field will help introduce more young adults to the many opportunities that await in the construction industry."