Construction Employment Surpasses Pre-Pandemic Peak In Majority Of Metro Areas; Association Calls For Steps To Enlarge Worker Supply
Walla Walla, Washington and Salt Lake City, Utah Post the Largest Gains Over the Last Two Years; Odessa, Texas and New York City Experience the Worst Declines Since February 2020 High Point
Construction employment increased from February 2020—the month before the coronavirus pandemic—to February 2022 in nearly three-fifths of U.S. metro areas, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America of new government employment data. Association officials said it is getting harder to find workers and urged officials to invest more in career training and education programs for construction.
“The rebound in construction employment in most metros shows there is robust demand for infrastructure and nonresidential buildings, as well as housing,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “But contractors in many areas say they would hire even more workers if there were enough qualified candidates.”
There were 364,000 job openings in construction at the end of February—the most for any February since the government first compiled the data in 2001, Simonson noted. Openings exceeded the 342,000 workers hired by construction firms that month, which implies contractors wanted to hire twice as many employees as they were able to, he said.
Construction employment rose in 209 or 58 percent of 358 metro areas over the 24-month period. Salt Lake City, Utah added the most construction jobs (5,100 jobs, 11 percent), followed by Jacksonville, Florida (4,800 jobs, 10 percent); Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, Tenn. (4,000 jobs, 8 percent); and Boise City, Idaho (3,800 jobs, 14 percent). Walla Walla, Wash. had the highest percentage gain (36 percent, 400 jobs), followed by Decatur, Ill. (32 percent, 900 jobs); Lawrence-Methuen Town-Salem, Mass.-N.H. (24 percent, 800 jobs); and Lake Havasu City-Kingman, Ariz. (23 percent, 800 jobs).
Construction employment declined in 109 metro areas from the February 2020 level and was stagnant in 40 areas. New York City lost the most jobs (-25,500 or -16 percent), followed by Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas (-23,400 jobs, -10 percent) and Baton Rouge, La. (-6,800 jobs, -14 percent). The largest percentage declines were in Odessa, Texas (-27 percent, -5,500 jobs); Greeley, Colo. (-24 percent, -4,700 jobs); and Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas (-22 percent, -4,700 jobs).
Association officials said they are taking steps to recruit more people into the industry, including with its “Construction is Essential” targeted digital advertising campaign and the “Culture of Care” program that it designed to help firms retain new workers. They urged public officials, however, to support those efforts by boosting investments in career and technical education programs focusing on construction.
“Career and technical education teaches essential skills and exposes a broader range of people to the many career opportunities available in construction,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Helping encourage more people to pursue high-paying construction careers will keep America building and contribute to broader economic growth.”