According to the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), contractors are laying off workers once they complete projects that began before the pandemic, as private owners and government agencies are reluctant to get involved in new construction.
“A lack of new construction is forcing more and more contractors to lay off workers once they have completed projects that started before the pandemic broke out in early 2020,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist, in a prepared statement. “Private construction spending on non-residential buildings fell 10 percent from December 2019 to December 2020, and public work has slowed since last March, according to the latest data from the Census Bureau.”
According to an analysis of government data by AGC, employment in construction fell in more than half of the country’s metropolitan areas from December 2019 to December 2020, despite a sharp rise in housing construction and remodeling. Employment in the construction industry declined in 191 metropolitan areas, stagnated in 33 and only 134 metropolitan areas – 37 percent – created jobs in the construction industry between December 2019 and December 2020.
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas, lost the most 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, Pennsylvania counties (-9,100 jobs, -17 percent); and Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colorado (-6,900 jobs, -6 percent).
Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton, Massachusetts, saw the largest percentage decline (-40 percent, -2,100 jobs), followed by Altoona, Pennsylvania (-34 percent, -1,000 jobs); Bloomsburg-Berwick, Pennsylvania (-33 percent, -400 jobs); Johnstown, Pennsylvania (-29 percent, -700 jobs); and East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania (-26 percent, -500 jobs).
Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, Indiana, added the most construction jobs during the year (5,600 jobs, 10 percent), followed by Northern Virginia (5,300 jobs, 7 percent); Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Washington (4,900 jobs, 5 percent); Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, Maryland (4,800 jobs, 6 percent); and Kansas City, Missouri (3,300 jobs, 11 percent). Walla Walla, Washington, saw the highest percentage increase (17 percent, 200 jobs), followed by Fond du Lac, Wisconsin (16 percent, 500 jobs); Springfield, Missouri (15 percent, 1,400 jobs); and Dutchess-Putnam Counties, New York (15 percent, 1,300 jobs).
Union officials said job losses are likely to increase as demand for non-residential construction suffers and state and local budget issues undermine demand for public projects.