Southeast construction jobs recovery lags rest of nation

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by Scott Judy, editor, Southeast Construction

The latest unemployment rate figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics came out recently, and the construction industry saw some improvement, according to a recent report from Engineering News-Record. The industry’s jobless rate fell from about 20% in March, to 17.8% in April, thanks to the addition of roughly 12,700 jobs during the month. Despite the drop in the jobless rate, construction still ranked last among the nation’s major industries.

In other words, the situation became slightly less horrible.

Regionally, construction continues to struggle, with the Southeast off to a sluggish start so far this year. The pace of new construction project starts is lagging considerably as 2011 unfolds. Here is some additional information to digest – the most recent state-by-state construction employment figures from BLS. (The latest BLS figures on a state-by-state basis are through March 2011, whereas the national figures are for April.)

In March, Florida’s construction industry employed an estimated 332,900 workers. Compared to a year ago, that number was 4.2% lower. HISTORICAL PEAK: According to BLS, Florida’s construction employment peaked in June 2006, with an estimated 687,200 construction jobs. The latest estimate of 332,900 represents a loss of 354,300 jobs, for a 51.6% drop in industry employment since that peak.

Georgia employed 140,000 construction workers in March, or about 7.6% fewer than a year ago. HISTORICAL PEAK: Employment in Georgia’s construction industry peaked in March 2007 with an estimated total of 224,000. The current estimate of 140,000 represents a loss of 84,000 jobs, for a 37.5% decline in industry employment.

Also, according to BLS, the state of North Carolina employed 172,300 construction workers, or 3.5% fewer than a year ago. HISTORICAL PEAK: According to BLS, employment in North Carolina’s construction sector peaked in June 2007, with an estimated 257,200 workers. The current estimate of 172,300 reflects a loss of 85,200 jobs, or a 33.1% drop in industry employment.

Finally, BLS reported that South Carolina employed 76,500 construction workers in March, or 2.4% less than last year. HISTORICAL PEAK: Employment in South Carolina’s construction industry hit a high in October 2006, with an estimated 127,700 construction workers. The latest estimate of 76,500 represents a loss of 51,200 jobs, or a 40.1% drop in industry employment.

Will the Southeast lag the rest of the nation for awhile? Will 2011 prove to be a year of recovery? Or is 2012 starting to look like the better bet?  Read More.

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