Construction employment lags pre-pandemic levels in key metros

By |  August 4, 2021

The Associated General Contractors of AmericaConstruction employment declined or stagnated in 101 metro areas between February 2020 – the last month before the pandemic – and June 2021, according to an Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) analysis of government employment data.

AGC officials say labor shortages and supply chain problems were keeping many firms from adding workers in many parts of the U.S.

“Typically, construction employment increases between February and June in all but 30 metro areas,” says Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “The fact that more than three times as many metros as usual failed to add construction jobs, despite a hot housing market, is an indication of the continuing impact of the pandemic on both demand for nonresidential projects and the supply of workers.”

Eighty metro areas had lower construction employment this June versus February 2020, AGC says, while industry employment was unchanged in 21 areas. The Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land market in Texas lost the most jobs (33,400, down 14 percent). Major metro losses also occurred in New York (22,000 jobs, down 14 percent); Midland, Texas (9,300 jobs, down 24 percent); Odessa, Texas (7,900 jobs, down 38 percent) and Baton Rouge, Louisiana (7,700 jobs, down 16 percent).

Odessa had the largest percentage decline, followed by Lake Charles, Louisiana (34 percent, down 6,700 jobs); Laredo, Texas (25 percent, down 1,000 jobs); Midland; and Longview, Texas (22 percent, down 3,300 jobs).

Of 257 metro areas, AGC says 72 percent added construction jobs over the February 2020 level. The Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights market in Illinois added the most construction jobs over 16 months (14,300 jobs, up 12 percent), followed by the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington market spanning Minnesota and Wisconsin (13,800 jobs, up 18 percent); Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, Indiana (10,700 jobs, up 20 percent); Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills, Michigan (9,300 jobs, up 18 percent); and Pittsburgh (7,600 jobs, up 13 percent).

The Fargo market across North Dakota and Minnesota had the highest percentage increase (50 percent, up 3,700 jobs), followed by Sierra Vista-Douglas, Arizona (48 percent, up 1,200 jobs); Bay City, Michigan (45 percent, up 500 jobs); St. Cloud, Minnesota (39 percent, up 2,400 jobs); and Kankakee, Illinois (36 percent, up 400 jobs).

AGC officials urge the Biden administration and Congress to make new investments in workforce development and to take steps to address supply chain issues. They specifically call for additional funding for career and technical education, noting that craft training receives only one-sixth as much federal funding as college preparation.

AGC also calls on President Biden to remove tariffs on key construction materials such as steel and aluminum.

“Federal officials may talk about the value of craft careers like construction, but they are failing to put their money where their mouth is,” says Stephen Sandherr, the AGC’s CEO. “Until we expose more people to construction careers and get a handle on soaring materials prices, the construction industry is likely to have a hard time recovering from the pandemic.”

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Kevin Yanik is editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry. He can be reached at 216-706-3724 or

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