Statewide construction employment declines 2% from Dec. 2019 to Dec. 2020, but with major regional variations

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North Carolina’s statewide construction employment data indicates a 2 percent overall decline between December 2019 and December 2020, reflecting the impact of COVID-19 — but the story varies sharply in different regions.

Government data compiled by the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America 

shows, for example, a 4% increase in employment in Raleigh, while there was a 9% decline in Fayetteville.  Employment increased 6% in Burlington and declined  7% in Winston-Salem.  The jobs picture in the metropolitan Charlotte area was stable, with just 100 jobs lost out of an overall employment level of 69,500.

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

  • Statewide Construction 231,200 226,100 -5,100 -2%
  • Statewide Mining, Logging, and Construction 236,800 231,600 -5,200 -2%
  • Asheville  Mining, Logging, and Construction 10,100 10,500 400 4% 68
  • Burlington Mining, Logging, and Construction 3,300 3,500 200 6% 41
  • Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC Mining, Logging, and Construction 69,500 69,400 -100 0% 168
  • Durham-Chapel Hill Mining, Logging, and Construction 9,300 9,600 300 3% 81
  • Fayetteville Mining, Logging, and Construction 5,800 5,300 -500 -9% 289
  • Greensboro-High Point Mining, Logging, and Construction 15,600 15,500 -100 -1% 170
  • Greenville Mining, Logging, and Construction 3,800 3,800 0 0% 135
  • Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton Mining, Logging, and Construction 4,500 4,500 0 0% 135
  • Raleigh Mining, Logging, and Construction 41,500 43,300 1,800 4% 68
  • Rocky Mount Mining, Logging, and Construction 2,900 2,900 0 0% 135
  • Wilmington Mining, Logging, and Construction 9,300 9,200 -100 -1% 170
  • Winston-Salem Mining, Logging, and Construction 11,500 10,700 -800 -7% 258
  • Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, SC-NC Mining, Logging, and Construction 10,800 11,000 200 2% 101
  • Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC Mining, Logging, and Construction 40,100 40,100 0 0% 135

Nationally, construction employment fell in 191, or 53 percent, of 358 metro areas in 2020. Construction employment was stagnant in 33 additional metro areas, while only 134 metro areas—37 percent—added construction jobs between December 2019 and December 2020.

Employment decreased from December 2019 to December 2020 in more than half of the nation’s metro areas despite a surge in homebuilding and remodeling, according to an analysis of new government data that the Associated General Contractors of America released on Feb. 3. Association officials said large numbers of contractors are having to lay off workers once they complete projects that began before the pandemic because private owners and public agencies are hesitant to commit to new construction.

“A dearth of new construction work is forcing more and more contractors to lay off employees once they complete projects started before the pandemic hit in early 2020,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Private nonresidential construction spending tumbled 10 percent from December 2019 to December 2020 and public work has been slowing since last March, according to recent Census Bureau data.

Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas lost the largest number of construction jobs in 2020 (-24,500 jobs, -10 percent), followed by New York City (-19,100 jobs, -12 percent); Midland, Texas (-9,200 jobs, -23 percent); Montgomery-Bucks-Chester counties, Pa. (-9,100 jobs, -17 percent); and Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colo. (-6,900 jobs, -6 percent). Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton, Mass. had the largest percentage decline (-40 percent, -2,100 jobs), followed by Altoona, Pa. (-34 percent, -1,000 jobs); Bloomsburg-Berwick, Pa. (-33 percent, -400 jobs); Johnstown, Pa. (-29 percent, -700 jobs); and East Stroudsburg, Pa. (-26 percent, -500 jobs).

Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, Ind. added the most construction jobs over the year (5,600 jobs, 10 percent), followed by Northern Virginia (5,300 jobs, 7 percent); Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Wash. (4,900 jobs, 5 percent); Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, Md. (4,800 jobs, 6 percent); and Kansas City, Mo. (3,300 jobs, 11 percent). Walla Walla, Wash. had the highest percentage increase (17 percent, 200 jobs), followed by Fond du Lac, Wisc. (16 percent, 500 jobs); Springfield, Mo. (15 percent, 1,400 jobs); and Dutchess-Putnam counties, N.Y. (15 percent, 1,300 jobs).

Association officials said job losses are likely to widen as demand for non-residential construction suffers and state and local budget challenges undermine demand for public projects. They urged Washington officials to begin work on recovery measures to fund infrastructure and shore up local construction budgets. They added that the work on these new investments should start even as negotiations on a coronavirus relief package continue.

“Helping people now is important but planning to rebuild our economy is essential to recovering from the economic pain of the pandemic,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “It is not enough to just want a better economy; you have to build it.”

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