NC fares relatively well as construction industry employment declines in past year in many US cities

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Steep monthly declines in public and private nonresidential construction spending offset a surge in homebuilding in July, while industry employment decreased compared to July 2019 levels in two-thirds of the nation’s metro areas, according to an by the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America of government data released on Sept. 1. Association officials said many commercial construction firms were likely to continue shedding jobs without needed federal coronavirus relief measures.

North Carolina’s results were neither the best nor the worst in the nation; overall the state has performed rrelatively well with a statewide year-to-date construction employment loss of 5 per cent, with an only one per cent decline in metropolitan Charlotte and the Research Triangle area.

Here are the detailed results by community. The numbers relate to July 2019 and July 2020 employment totals, the total number of jobs lost, percentage job loss and the ranking by metropolitan area nationally.

  • North Carolina Statewide Construction 234,500 223,500 -11,000 -5%
  • Statewide Mining, Logging, and Construction 240,300 229,000 -11,300 -5%
  • Asheville Mining, Logging, and Construction 10,200 10,300 100 1% 71
  • Burlington Mining, Logging, and Construction 3,500 3,400 -100 -3% 150
  • Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC Mining, Logging, and Construction 68,900 68,000 -900 -1% 121
  • Durham-Chapel Hill Mining, Logging, and Construction 9,300 9,400 100 1% 71
  • Fayetteville Mining, Logging, and Construction 6,100 5,200 -900 -15% 312
  • Greensboro-High Point Mining, Logging, and Construction 16,000 15,700 -300 -2% 131
  • Greenville, NC Mining, Logging, and Construction 3,800 3,900 100 3% 48
  • Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton Mining, Logging, and Construction 4,600 4,400 -200 -4% 180
  • Raleigh Mining, Logging, and Construction 41,400 41,600 200 1% 89
  • Rocky Mount Mining, Logging, and Construction 2,900 2,800 -100 -3% 150
  • Wilmington Mining, Logging, and Construction 9,400 9,200 -200 -2% 131
  • Winston-Salem Mining, Logging, and Construction 11,600 10,500 -1,100 -9% 255
  • Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, SC-NC Mining, Logging, and Construction 11,000 10,900 -100 -1% 121
  • Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC Mining, Logging, and Construction 39,400 39,900 500 1% 71

“The dichotomy between slumping nonresidential projects—both public and private—and robust homebuilding seems sure to widen as the pandemic continues to devastate state and local finances and much of the private sector,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Without new federal investments in infrastructure and other measures to boost demand for nonresidential construction, contractors will be forced to let more workers go.”

Construction spending in July totaled $1.36 trillion at a seasonally adjusted annual rate, a gain of 0.1 percent from June. A 1.2 percent drop in nonresidential spending nearly canceled out a 2.1 percent jump in residential spending, which was boosted by growth in both single-family (3.1 percent) and multifamily construction (4.9 percent).

Public construction spending decreased by 1.3 percent, dragged down by a 3.1 percent drop in highway and street construction spending and a 3.0 percent decline in educational construction spending, the two largest public segments. The next-largest segment, transportation facilities, also contracted, by 1.6 percent.

Private nonresidential construction spending slid 1.0 percent from June to July. The largest segment, power construction, dipped 0.1 percent. Among other large private spending categories, commercial construction—comprising retail, warehouse and farm structures—slumped 3.2 percent, while manufacturing construction rose 0.2 percent and office construction fell 0.7 percent.

Construction employment declined from July 2019 to July 2020 in 238, or 66 percent, out of 358 metro areas, increased in 90 areas (25 percent) and held steady in 30. New York City lost the most construction jobs (-26,500, -16 percent), while the steepest percentage loss occurred in Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton, Mass. (-36 percent, -2,100 jobs). Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, Md. added the most construction jobs over the year (4,800, 6 percent), while Walla Walla, Wash. had the largest percentage gain (25 percent, 300 jobs).

Association officials said that in addition to the new spending and metro employment data, the association is releasing the results of its annual workforce survey tomorrow that will underscore the need for new federal recovery measures. The construction officials called on Congress and the Trump administration to enact new infrastructure investments, pass a one-year extension to the current surface transportation law with additional transportation construction funding and enact liability reforms to shied firms that are protecting workers from the coronavirus from needless lawsuits.

“Without new federal relief measures, the industry’s limited recovery will likely be short lived,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Congress and the President should be taking advantage of current market conditions to rebuild our infrastructure, restore lost jobs and reinvigorate the economy.”

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