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Construction Employment Still Down in State, Though More Metro Areas in U.S. Show Gains

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Construction employment either increased or remained steady in one-third – 113 of 337 metropolitan areas – between October 2009 and October 2010, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released by the Associated General Contractors of America.

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Association officials say construction job gains are becoming more widespread thanks in large part to an increase in power, stimulus and other publicly-funded construction projects.

“It looks like the stimulus, military base realignment and power projects have put a halt to some of the dramatic construction job losses many metro areas have been experiencing,” says Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist, referring to construction spending figures released yesterday. “But even as construction employment has stabilized in some areas, the fact remains that construction job losses are still far too numerous and widespread.”

Phoenix, Ariz. added more construction jobs (4,100 jobs, 5%) than any of the 67 metro areas to add jobs during the past year. Hanford-Corcoran, Calif. added the highest percentage (44%, 400 jobs). Other areas adding jobs included Kansas City, Kan. (1,700 jobs, 9%); Columbus, Ohio (1,700 jobs, 6%); Bethesda-Rockville-Frederick, Md. (1,500 jobs, 5%); and Greeley, Colo. (1,400 jobs, 16%). Construction employment was unchanged in 46 metro areas.

The Chicago area lost more construction jobs (-19,200 jobs, -14%) than any of the other 224 metro area where construction employment declined. Napa, Calif. (-1,100 jobs, -37%) lost the highest percentage. Other areas experiencing large declines in construction employment included Las Vegas (-12,200 jobs, -21%); Los Angeles (8,600 jobs, -8%); Northern Virginia (-8,000 jobs, -12%); Philadelphia (-6,500 jobs, -10%); and Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif. (-6,500 jobs, -10%).

Association officials say that even though private sector demand for construction services remains weak, there’s some room for optimism. They note that state and local tax receipts appear to be stabilizing while demand for power projects surged between September and October. They add that the recently released proposal from the Deficit Commission calling for an increase in highway, bridge and transit funding underscored some politicians’ commitment to upgrading the country’s aging infrastructure.

“We may not be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but we know it is getting closer,” says Stephen Sandherr, the association’s CEO. “Washington can help by putting in place consistent tax and investment policies that encourage greater private sector growth and promote stability within the hard-hit construction industry.”

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