Construction and Economic Development

Construction jobs go up in half of the country

But Michigan and Grand Rapids metro area recorded losses.

June 7, 2013
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The Associated General Contractors of America recently revealed construction jobs rose in about half of the nation’s metro markets, with the biggest share of those gains occurring in the South and on the West Coast where demand from the private sector for building projects went up.

Markets in Mississippi, Louisiana, California and Texas all saw double-digit job hikes from April 2012 through last April.

“Demand for construction continues to grow in many parts of the county amid increasing private sector investments in new residential, energy, and supply-chain facilities like factories, rail lines and warehouses,” said Ken Simonson, AGC’s chief economist, in a statement.

Federal employment data showed that in 170 of the county’s 339 metro regions, construction jobs increased from April through April.

“These private-sector gains appear strong enough in many parts of the country to outpace declining public-sector investments in infrastructure and buildings,” added Simonson.

The nation’s midsection, however, suffered the largest construction job losses during that timeframe. The Chicago market proved to be the biggest loser, shedding 5,900 jobs for a 5 percent decline in industry employment. Other losers were Cincinnati, Ohio; Eau Claire, Wis.; and Decatur and Rockford, Ill. Northern Virginia and Raleigh, N.C., also recorded big job losses.

Closer to home, Michigan lost 7,200 construction jobs over the 13-month period for a decline of 6 percent. The Grand Rapids metro market, which includes Wyoming, dropped 800 jobs, while Muskegon added 200 for an 11 percent gain. 

In Lansing, where construction employment fell by 300 jobs and 6 percent, state lawmakers are still debating whether to pay for road and infrastructure work.

AGC officials noted that improving construction employment is masking longer-term problems that could come from declining public-sector investments. They concluded economic growth might suffer as aging transportation infrastructure forces businesses to pay more for shipping.

At the same time, AGC officials said increasing construction employment means more areas could experience worker shortages in the near future and have a lack of available workers with key construction skills.

“Declining investments in infrastructure and other public assets could ultimately underline the very growth that is currently boosting employment,” said AGC CEO Stephen Sandherr.

“With hiring on the rebound in many areas, we also need to rebuild vocational-education programs and rethink immigration-construction caps to ensure there are enough skilled workers available to meet growing demand.” 

West Michigan Sees Construction Jobs Decline

The West Michigan construction industry lost 1,400 jobs from April 2012 through April 2013 — a decline of 5.5 percent, according to the Associated General Contractors of America. AGC compiled its findings from employment data gathered by the federal government.

Here is a look at the region's five metro construction markets over that time period.

 
Metro Market Jobs in April 2012 Jobs in April 2013 12-month change 12-month gain/loss
Battle Creek 1,500 1,400 -7% (100)
Grand Rapids-Wyoming 13,200 12,400 -6% (800)
Holland-Grand Haven 4,000 4,000 0 0
Kalamazoo-Portage 4,800 4,100 -15% (700)
Muskegon-Norton Shores 1,800 2,000 +11% 200
Total  25,300 23,900 -5.5% (1,400)

Source: Associated General Contractors of America, May 2013

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