North Carolina construction employment declines 3 percent in year as COVID-19 takes its toll

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Overall, construction employment in North Carolina declined by about 3 percent from November 2019 through November, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic took the bloom off the economy’s growth.

But US Labor Department data compiled and analyzed by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) shows circumstances vary in different communities. In Raleigh, employment grew by 5 percent, with a somewhat lower growth in nearby Durham/Chapel Hill at 2 percent. (Charlotte lost just 200 workers in a construction industry workforce approaching 70,000.)

Things weren’t so good in Fayetteville which lost 7 percent of its construction employees, and Winston-Salem, which saw a 9 percent decline.

Statewide, construction employment declined by 7,200 or 3% to 226,400 from 233,600.

Here is a detailed list by market area.The numbers represent employment in November 2019, 2020, the actual gain/loss, the percentage change, and the national ranking.

  • North Carolina Statewide Construction 233,600 226,400 -7,200 -3%
  • Statewide Mining, Logging, and Construction 239,300 232,000 -7,300 -3%
  • Asheville Mining, Logging, and Construction 10,200 10,500 300 3% 70
  • Burlington Mining, Logging, and Construction 3,300 3,400 100 3%
  • Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC Mining, Logging, and Construction 69,900 69,700 -200 -0.3% 158
  • Durham-Chapel Hill Mining, Logging, and Construction 9,400 9,600 200 2% 86
  • Fayetteville Mining, Logging, and Construction 5,800 5,400 -400 -7% 248
  • Greensboro-High Point, NC Mining, Logging, and Construction 15,700 15,600 -100 -1% 161 Greenville Mining, Logging, and Construction 3,800 3,800 0 0% 123
  • Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton Mining, Logging, and Construction 4,500 4,500 0 0% 123
  • Raleigh Mining, Logging, and Construction 41,200 43,300 2,100 5% 41
  • Rocky Mount Mining, Logging, and Construction 2,900 2,900 0 0% 123
  • Wilmington Mining, Logging, and Construction 9,300 9,100 -200 -2% 175
  • Winston-Salem Mining, Logging, and Construction 11,700 10,700 -1,000 -9% 274
  • Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, SC-NC Mining, Logging, and Construction 10,800 11,000 200 2% 86
  • Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC Mining, Logging, and Construction 40,100 40,400 300 1% 105

Nationally, only 34 percent of the nation’s metro areas—just over one-third—added construction jobs from November 2019 to November 2020, AGCA reported. Association officials said large numbers of contractors are having to lay off workers once they complete projects begun before the pandemic because private owners and public agencies are hesitant to commit to new construction.

“Canceled and postponed projects appear to be more common than new starts for far too many contractors,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Our association’s 2021 Construction Hiring and Business Outlook Survey found three times more contractors have experienced postponements and cancellations than new or expanded projects.”

Construction employment fell in 203, or 57 percent, of 358 metro areas between November 2019 and November 2020. Construction employment was stagnant in 33 additional metro areas, while only 122 metro areas—34 percent—added construction jobs during the past year.

Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas lost the most construction jobs over that span (-22,500 jobs, -9 percent), followed by New York City (-16,700 jobs, -11 percent); Midland, Texas (-9,800 jobs, -25 percent); Montgomery-Bucks-Chester counties, Pa. (-8,800 jobs, -16 percent); and Oakland-Hayward-Berkeley, Calif. (-8,400 jobs, -11 percent). Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton, Mass. had the largest percentage decline (-40 percent, -2,200 jobs), followed by Altoona, Pa. (-35 percent, -1,100 jobs); Bloomsburg-Berwick, Pa. (-31 percent, -400 jobs); Johnstown, Pa. (-31 percent, -800 jobs); and East Stroudsburg, Pa. (-30 percent, -600 jobs).

Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Ariz. added the most construction jobs over the year (4,700 jobs, 3 percent), followed by Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, Md. (4,500 jobs, 5 percent); Boise, Idaho (4,300 jobs, 16 percent); Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas (3,700 jobs, 2 percent); and Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Wash. (3,600 jobs, 3 percent). Walla Walla, Wash. had the highest percentage increase (17 percent, 200 jobs), followed by Boise; Oshkosh-Neenah, Wisc. (16 percent, 900 jobs); and Springfield, Mo. (16 percent, 1,500 jobs).

Association officials said many metro areas were likely to lose more construction jobs amid declining demand and continued project cancellations and delays. They added that a clearer picture of what is in store for the industry will emerge on Thursday, January 7, when the association releases the 2021 Construction Hiring and Business Outlook it prepared with Sage.

“Construction employment is likely to fall further in many parts of the country as the coronavirus continues to weigh on demand for nonresidential projects,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Unless market conditions change rapidly, this year is likely to prove very challenging for many construction employers.”

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