Construction employment stands to suffer if Congress allows federal highway funding to stop this summer

Construction employment increases in 197 metro areas between march 2013 and 2014 as 27 areas exceed or match previous highs for the month.

Highway 1 Los Angeles

Construction employment expanded in 197 metro areas, declined in 87 and was stagnant in 55 between March 2013 and March 2014, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released today by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials noted, however, that construction employment stands to suffer if Congress allows federal highway funding to stop this summer.

“Much of the country experienced relatively robust growth in construction employment during the past year,” says Ken Simonson, the association's chief economist. “But the fact construction employment remains below prior peak levels in most areas shows just how hard hit the industry was during the downturn and how vulnerable it is to disruptions, such as a potential lapse in federal highway funding.”

Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif. added the largest number of construction jobs in the past year (10,000 jobs, 9%), followed by Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine, Calif. (9,100 jobs, 12%) and Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas (6,200 jobs, 6%). The largest percentage gains occurred in Monroe, Mich. (43%, 900 jobs), El Centro, Calif. (37%, 700 jobs), Pascagoula, Miss. (35%, 1,900 jobs) and Lewiston, Idaho-Wash. (33%, 300 jobs).

The largest job losses from March 2013 to March 2014 were in Gary, Ind. (-5,400 jobs, -28%), followed by Bethesda-Rockville-Frederick, Md. (-3,000 jobs, -10%), Putnam-Rockland-Westchester, New York (-2,200 jobs, -8%) and Rochester, New York (-1,400 jobs, -9%). The largest percentage decline for the past year was also in Gary, followed by Yuba City, California (-13%, -200 jobs), Elkhart-Goshen, Indiana. (-12%, -300 jobs), and Sandusky, Ohio (-11%, -100 jobs).

Pascagoula, Miss. experienced the largest percentage increase (26%, 1,500 jobs higher than March ‘08) among the 27 metro areas that topped or matched their prior March construction employment highs. Baton Rouge, La. added the most jobs since reaching its prior March peak in 2013 (3,400 jobs). Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, Ariz. (-86,300 jobs) experienced the largest drop in total construction employment compared to its prior March 2006 peak while Lake Havasu City-Kingman, Ariz. experienced the largest percentage decline compared to its March 2006 peak (-69%).

Association officials said thousands of construction jobs could be at risk if Congress and the Obama administration allow billions in highway funding to come to a halt this summer when the federal Highway Trust Fund is expected to reach a zero balance. The prospects are so daunting that thousands of highway workers have already contacted their members of Congress asking for help as part of a “Hardhats for Highways” campaign organized by a coalition of construction and labor groups.

“It would be an economic travesty to put thousands out of work and undermine the construction industry’s recovery because Washington officials don’t fix a problem they’ve known about for months,” says Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “This isn’t the kind of summer break hard-working crafts men and women expect or deserve.”

View construction employment figures by state and rank.