ARLINGTON, VA—As a measure of the pickup in development activity as the economic recovery begins gathering a little steam, the Associated General Contractors of America said Friday that construction firms added jobs in 38 states over the past 12 months. That report dovetails with the latest Federal Reserve Beige Book word on the subject, which uses the terms “moderate” and modest” to characterize the increases in both residential and commercial construction.
AGC’s analysis of US Labor Department data showed that job gains leveled off between February and March, with 25 states reporting monthly increases, compared to 30 states that saw increases from January to February. An AGC analysis reported earlier this month found that construction employment for February expanded year-over-year in 175 metro areas—down from the previous month’s Y-O-Y tally of 195—declined in 106 and was stagnant in 58 between February 2013 and February 2014. Employment levels remain below peak levels in all but 19 metro areas.
“The widespread gains in employment from a year ago are encouraging, given the tough winter many states experienced right through March,” says Ken Simonson, chief economist at AGC. “The never-ending winter of 2014 may account for the dip in the number of states that added construction jobs in the latest month, but it is also possible that single-family homebuilders are not adding workers as some forecasters expected.”
With both residential and commercial development making a strong comeback in Florida, the Sunshine State led all states in both percentage and total construction gains year over year, up 11.5% and 41,000 new jobs, respectively. Other states posting big Y-O-Y percentage gains included Oregon, up 10.8% and 7,800 jobs, respectively; and Minnesota, up 10.4% and 10,200 jobs. After Florida, California added the most new construction jobs for the year (37,100 jobs, 5.9%) followed by Texas (17,100 jobs, 2.8%) and Minnesota.
Eleven states and the District of Columbia shed construction jobs over the past 12 months, while employment was constant in Alaska. The biggest losers numbers-wise were New Jersey, which lost 4,600 construction jobs; Kentucky, -1,900 jobs; and West Virginia, which lost 1,700 jobs and also had the highest percentage decline at 4.9%.
Ohio’s construction job losses were even larger on a percentage basis during February, and the Buckeye State led the way with month-to-month gains of 4,600 jobs. In all, two dozen states and the District of Columbia added jobs between February and March, while construction employment declined in 23 states and remained unchanged in Montana, South Dakota and Wyoming. On the basis of numbers, Texas lost the most jobs—5,300—between February and March, although the loss represented only 0.8% of the construction payrolls in that state.
The Beige Book report last week from the Fed showed residential construction grew at a moderate pace in the central bank’s Boston and San Francisco Districts, while New York, Philadelphia, and Atlanta reported “modest” growth. In the Chicago District, a decline in single-family construction was accompanied by growing demand for new apartment projects as residential rents continued to increase, according to the Fed.
Multifamily construction remained strong in the New York, Richmond, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas and San Francisco districts. The Fed’s Minneapolis District reported that overall residential construction activity decreased and that the value of residential permits fell in March.
In the commercial sector, Kansas City and Dallas has strengthened since the previous Beige Bok, with the Fed citing office development in those markets as especially vigorous.
Richmond, Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, Minneapolis and San Francisco reported modest to moderate expansion in commercial construction, with Philadelphia reporting mild growth and Cleveland reporting a slight decline. At the same time, the Fed reported, “Commercial leasing activity generally grew at a mild to moderate pace.”