The momentum boosting the number of states adding construction jobs stalled in March as only 12 states and the District of Columbia added jobs since February, another 36 states lost construction jobs and employment levels remained flat in two other states, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America of Labor Department data. The year-over-year figures were little better, association officials added, noting that only 24 states and D.C. added construction jobs between March 2011 and 2012 while 24 lost jobs and two were unchanged.
"The March figures may simply reflect a bit of a correction after last year's harsh winter and this year's mild winter impacted typical March hiring patterns," said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. "But the industry is still burdened in many states by weak demand for single-family housing, retail, office and public construction."
Simonson noted that North Dakota again had the largest percentage gain in construction jobs between March 2011 and 2012 (15.9 percent, 3,600 jobs), followed by D.C. (15.7 percent, 1,800 jobs) and Iowa (9.0 percent, 5,500 jobs). California added the most jobs (10,800, 1.9 percent), followed by Tennessee (8,100, 7.6 percent).
The economist said that among states that lost construction jobs during the past year, Alabama lost the highest percentage (-10.4 percent, -8,500 jobs), followed by Alaska (-10.1 percent, -1,600) and Nevada (-9.6 percent, -5,200). Florida lost the most jobs (-13,500, -4.0 percent), followed by Illinois (-9,500, -4.7 percent), Georgia (-8,800, -5.9 percent) and Alabama. Employment was unchanged over the year in Idaho and Wyoming.
Arizona added the highest percentage and largest number of construction jobs between February and March (3.4 percent, (3.4 percent, 3,800 jobs), followed by Missouri (2.4 percent, 2,400). Iowa was third in percentage growth (2.0 percent, 1,300) and New York was third in number of jobs added (1,600, 0.5 percent).
Of states that lost construction jobs for the month, Wisconsin had the steepest percentage decline (-4.9 percent, -4,500 jobs), followed by Arkansas (-4.3 percent, -2,100 jobs). Ohio had the largest number of job losses (-7,000, -3.9 percent) followed by Illinois (-5,000, -2.5 percent) and Wisconsin. Construction employment held steady for the month in Oregon and Wyoming.
Association officials said the continuing job losses in many states shows that it is important for policy makers to enact the kind of long-term infrastructure measures and tax policies that will give business owners the certainty and confidence they need to hire. They cited congressional passage of yet another temporary highway and transportation bill as one of the factors creating uncertainty for construction employers.
"Many construction firms are hesitant to hire when they have no idea how much work will be available later this year or how much they will owe in taxes next April," said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's chief executive officer. "At this point, Washington's failure to act is holding back what should be a more pronounced rebound in private sector demand."