Construction employment: Mixed picture in the past year, depending on where you are

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There are significant variations by North Carolina community in construction employment levels for the year between January 2021 and January 2022, according to government data reported by the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America.

As an example, the Raleigh market area gained 2,000 construction jobs, a 5 percent increase, while employment declined by 100 (a 1 percent loss) in nearby Durham/Chapel Hill.

Employment grew by 1 percent (600 jobs) in Charlotte.

Asheville reported the best growth rate — 600 jobs (a 6 percent increase), while Greenville lost 100 jobs, making its 3 percent decline the most severe in North Carolina.

See detailed local breakdowns below. Data includes employment levels in January 2021, January 2022, the numerical change, percentage change, and national ranking. In smaller markets, mining and logging jobs are lumped in with construction.

  • Statewide Construction 231,600 235,800 4,200 2%
  • Statewide Mining, Logging, and Construction 237,100 241,200 4,100 2%
  • Asheville, NC Mining, Logging, and Construction 9,400 10,000 600 6% 87
  • Burlington, NC Mining, Logging, and Construction 3,100 3,100 0 0% 262
  • Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC Mining, Logging, and Construction 68,800 69,400 600 1% 244
  • Durham-Chapel Hill, NC Mining, Logging, and Construction 9,300 9,200 -100 -1% 301
  • Fayetteville, NC Mining, Logging, and Construction 4,900 5,300 400 8% 57
  • Greensboro-High Point, NC Mining, Logging, and Construction 16,500 16,900 400 2% 208
  • Greenville, NC Mining, Logging, and Construction 3,500 3,400 -100 -3% 328
  • Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC Mining, Logging, and Construction 4,800 5,000 200 4% 140
  • Raleigh, NC Mining, Logging, and Construction 42,600 44,600 2,000 5% 111
  • Rocky Mount, NC Mining, Logging, and Construction 2,500 2,500 0 0% 262
  • Wilmington, NC Mining, Logging, and Construction 9,600 9,800 200 2% 208
  • Winston-Salem, NC Mining, Logging, and Construction 11,800 11,900 100 1% 244
  • Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, SC-NC Mining, Logging, and Construction 10,700 10,700 0 0% 262
  • Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC Mining, Logging, and Construction 39,500 37,800 -1,700 -4% 337

“Construction employment is now increasing in most areas after a rough first year of the pandemic,” said AGC chief economist Ken Simonson. “But contractors recently have had more unfilled positions at the end of each month than they have been able to fill.”

Job openings in construction totaled 384,000 at the end of January, an increase of 81,000 or nearly 27 percent from January 2021, according to the government’s latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. That figure exceeded the 259,000 employees that construction firms were able to hire in January, implying firms would have added over twice as many workers if they had been able to fill all openings, Simonson pointed out.

Construction employment rose in 261 or 73 percent of 358 metro areas in 2021. Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas added the most construction jobs (10,300 jobs, 5 percent), followed by the Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas metro division (7,600 jobs, 5 percent); Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, Ga. (7,100 jobs, 6 percent); and the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif. division (4,700 jobs, 3 percent). Cheyenne, Wyo. had the highest percentage gain (47 percent, 1,400 jobs), followed by Lake Charles, La. (21 percent, 3,100 jobs); Weirton-Steubenville, W. Va.-Ohio (21 percent, 300 jobs); and Bloomington, Ill. (20 percent, 500 jobs).

Construction employment declined from a year earlier in 58 metros and was flat in 39. New York City lost the most jobs (-8,100 or -6 percent), followed by the Oakland-Hayward-Berkeley, Calif. division (-3,400 jobs, -5 percent) and Northern Virginia, Va. (-2,400 jobs, -3 percent). The largest percentage declines were in Sierra Vista-Douglas, Ariz. (-31 percent, -900 jobs); Danville, Ill. (-17 percent, -100 jobs); Tuscaloosa, Ala. (-9 percent, -600 jobs); and San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, Calif. (-9 percent, -900 jobs).

Association officials said firms would have likely added more workers during the past year if they could have found qualified candidates to hire. They urged federal, state and local officials to create more programs to expose learners and adults to construction skills and career opportunities to ensure more workers benefit from increasing federal infrastructure investments.

“Now that Washington is boosting infrastructure funding, public officials should take steps to encourage more people to pursue high-paying careers in construction,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “This industry has the capacity to put many more people into the American middle class.”

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