NC construction employment rebounds in January, but still 1.7% below pre-pandemic levels

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North Carolina Construction News staff writer

Construction employment in January remained below pre-pandemic levels in all but eight states, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America of government employment data released on March 15, while more firms have reduced headcount than have added to it in the past year, the association’s recent survey shows. Association officials said the jobs figures and survey results underscore the need for federal measures to stem future sector job losses.

North Carolina ranked near the middle, 21st in the nation, with an 11-month job loss between February 2020 and January 2021 of 3,900 workers, or 1.7 per cent. Employment rebounded between December 2020 and January 2021, with a gain of 1,200 jobs in the month, or 0.5%. The overall labour force state-wide was 235,800 in February 2020 and 230,700 in January 2021.

In detail, both statewide and by metro area, see below. (Numbers are for January 2020, January 2021, net change, percentage change, and national ranking)

  • Statewide Construction 229,600 225,800 -3,800 -2%
  • Statewide Mining, Logging, and Construction 235,300 231,400 -3,900 -2%
  • Asheville Mining, Logging, and Construction 9,500 9,400 -100 -1% 136
  • Burlington Mining, Logging, and Construction 3,200 3,100 -100 -3% 177
  • Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC Mining, Logging, and Construction 68,500 66,900 -1,600 -2% 155
  • Durham-Chapel Hill Mining, Logging, and Construction 9,100 9,400 300 3% 53
  • Fayetteville Mining, Logging, and Construction 5,300 4,700 -600 -11% 323
  • Greensboro-High Point Mining, Logging, and Construction 15,700 15,500 -200 -1% 136
  • Greenville Mining, Logging, and Construction 3,400 3,100 -300 -9% 304
  • Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton Mining, Logging, and Construction 4,700 4,900 200 4% 38
  • Raleigh Mining, Logging, and Construction 41,800 41,700 -100 -0.2% 134
  • Rocky Mount Mining, Logging, and Construction 2,500 2,500 0 0% 93
  • Wilmington Mining, Logging, and Construction 9,400 9,200 -200 -2% 155
  • Winston-Salem Mining, Logging, and Construction 11,600 11,800 200 2% 69
  • Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, SC-NC Mining, Logging, and Construction 10,700 10,300 -400 -4% 211
  • Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC Mining, Logging, and Construction 38,800 40,000 1,200 3% 53

“More contractors are telling us they are cutting headcount than adding workers, which is consistent with the new data showing the industry is shrinking in many parts of the country,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “More than three-fourth of the firms said projects had been postponed or canceled, while only one out of five reported winning new work or an add-on to an existing project in the previous two months as a result of the pandemic. That imbalance makes further job losses likely in many metros.”

Construction employment fell in 225, or 63 percent, of 358 metro areas between January 2020 and January 2021. Industry employment was stagnant in 41 additional metro areas, while only 92 metro areas—26 percent—added construction jobs.

Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas lost the largest number of construction jobs over the 12-month period (-32,900 jobs, -14 percent), followed by New York City (-23,000 jobs, -15 percent); Midland, Texas (-11,100 jobs, -29 percent); and Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights, Ill. (-10,400 jobs, -9 percent). Lake Charles, La. had the largest percentage decline (-40 percent, -8,100 jobs), followed by Odessa, Texas (-37 percent, -7,600 jobs); Midland; and Laredo, Texas (-27 percent, -1,100 jobs).

Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade, Calif. added the most construction jobs over 12 months (3,500 jobs, 5 percent), followed by Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, Ind. (3,100 jobs, 6 percent); Boise, Idaho (2,500 jobs, 9 percent); and Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Wash. (2,100 jobs, 2 percent). Sierra Vista-Douglas, Ariz. had the highest percentage increase (42 percent, 1,000 jobs), followed by Bay City, Mich. (18 percent, 200 jobs); and Auburn-Opelika, Ala. (15 percent, 400 jobs).

Association officials are urging Congress and the Biden administration to work together to address rising materials prices, supply chain backups and invest in infrastructure. They are asking the administration to end tariffs on key construction materials, including steel and lumber, work with shippers to get deliveries back on track and pass the significant new infrastructure investments the president has promised.

“The construction industry won’t be able to fully recover and start adding jobs in significant numbers as long as materials prices continue to spike, deliveries remain unreliable and demand remains uncertain,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Federal officials can’t fix every problem, but they can help by removing tariffs, helping hard-hit shippers and boosting investments in the nation’s infrastructure.”

View the metro employment 12-month , , , . View AGC’s .

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