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Construction Employment Increases in 25 States in October

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Construction employment rose in half the states and decreased in half in October and during the past year, closely matching the stable national employment picture, according to a recent analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America of Labor Department data. The even split between gains and losses reflects the accelerating improvement in apartment and private nonresidential construction, offset by a declining public market and a stalled single-family sector.

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“Construction employment gains are likely to remain spotty for months to come,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Local factors, rather than regional or industry trends, seem to dictate whether a state has rising or falling construction employment in a given month.”

North Dakota ranked first among 24 states and the District of Columbia that recorded construction employment gains from October 2010 to October 2011. The state added 19% (4,100 jobs). Oklahoma ranked second (8.1%, 5,500 jobs), followed by D.C. (4.8%, 500 jobs).

Texas added the largest number of jobs (17,500, 3.1%), closely followed by California (17,100, 3.1%).

 Among the 25 states that shed construction jobs over the past 12 months, Georgia experienced the steepest decline in percentage and total (-9.5%, -13,800 jobs). New Mexico was second-worst in percentage terms (-9.2%, -4,100 jobs), followed by Wisconsin (-8.6%, -8,100 jobs). Florida had the second-highest number of job losses (-11,600, -3.4%). Arkansas had no change in construction employment over the year.

Seasonally adjusted construction employment climbed from September to October in 25 states plus D.C., led in percentage gains by Delaware (5.5%, 1,000 jobs), Vermont (3.8%, 500 jobs) and Utah (also 3.8%, 2,500 jobs). New York added the largest number of construction jobs for the month (3,400 jobs, 1.1%), followed by Virginia (2,800 jobs, 1.6%) and Utah.

Of the 23 states that lost construction jobs from September to October, Nevada had the largest one-month percentage drop (-4.6%, -2,600 jobs), with Alabama next (-3.2%, -2,700 jobs), followed by Michigan (-3.0%, -3,900 jobs). Texas lost the largest number of construction jobs for the month (-12,800 jobs, -2.1%), followed by Florida (-4,800 jobs, -1.5%) and Michigan. South Dakota and Wyoming had no change in monthly construction employment, while Pennsylvania lost a statistically insignificant 100 jobs (less than 0.1%).

Association officials said the failure of the congressional “super committee” charged with reaching a deal to cut the U.S. deficit has the potential to undermine construction employment. They noted that the mandatory federal spending reductions now scheduled to go in place in the absence of a deal would likely cut needed investments in vital infrastructure projects across the country.

“Allowing water, transportation and energy networks to deteriorate will hurt construction employment and force taxpayers to spend more later to fix broken infrastructure,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Neglecting the fundamental systems needed to support our economy and quality of life is no way to balance the budget or boost employment.”

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