Construction Employment Trails Pre-Pandemic Levels in 35 States Despite Gains in Industry Jobs from October to November in 31 States

Construction employment in November remained below pre-pandemic levels in 35 states and the District of Columbia even though 31 states and D.C. added construction jobs from October to November, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America of government employment data released today. Association officials urged federal officials to swiftly renew a program to enable firms to keep workers on their payrolls while the pandemic is pushing back the start date for many projects.

“An increase in project cancellations and postponements is forcing nonresidential contractors to lay off workers as they complete projects started before the pandemic and firms exhaust their Paycheck Protection Program loans,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Despite strong demand for single-family homebuilding and remodeling, overall industry employment is likely to shrink in more states in the absence of federal assistance.”

Seasonally adjusted construction employment in November was lower than in February—the last month before the pandemic forced many contractors to suspend work—in 37 states, Simonson noted. New York lost the most construction jobs over the nine-month period (-39,700 jobs or -9.7 percent), followed by Texas (-37,200 jobs, -4.7 percent). Vermont experienced the largest percentage loss (-24.5 percent, -3,600 jobs), followed by North Dakota (-13.9 percent, -4,100 jobs).

Only 15 states and the District of Columbia added construction jobs from February to November. Virginia added the most jobs and highest percentage (11,800 jobs, 5.8 percent), followed by Utah (5,800 jobs, 5.1 percent).

Construction employment decreased from October to November in 17 states, increased in 31 states and D.C., and was unchanged in Maine and Nebraska. California had the largest loss of construction jobs from October to November (-5,800 jobs or -0.7 percent), followed by New Jersey (-3,800 jobs, -2.5 percent) and Nevada (-3,700 jobs, -3.9 percent). Nevada had the largest percentage decline, followed by South Dakota (-3.8 percent, -1,000 jobs).

Texas added the most construction jobs over the month (7,500 jobs, 1.0 percent), followed by Pennsylvania (4,300 jobs, 1.7 percent). Delaware had the largest percentage gain for the month (3.8 percent, 800 jobs), followed by Utah (2.6 percent, 3,000 jobs).

Association officials urged members of Congress to promptly pass a renewal of the Paycheck Protection Program, which saved thousands of construction workers from layoffs earlier in the year. They added that the legislation should also make clear that Congress did not intend for firms to incur tax liability when using the loans as intended.

“While the pandemic is causing more and more construction to be canceled or postponed, it is imperative that Congress renew the loan program that will keep contractors from shutting their doors and workers from losing their jobs,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “In addition, it is vital that Congress stop the Treasury from playing ‘gotcha’ with firms that rightly expected their loans to be treated as nontaxable.”

Source: Associated General Contractors of America

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