Construction employment increased in 185 out of 339 metropolitan areas between May 2012 and May 2013, declined in 115 and was stagnant in 39, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released today by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials said the number of metro areas adding jobs, and the pace at which construction employment is expanding in those metro areas continues to grow.

“It appears that the months-long growth in private sector demand for a host of residential and non-residential construction work is finally translating into significant numbers of new construction jobs in many parts of the country,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Even though some metro areas will continue to lose construction jobs, sector employment is likely to continue expanding in most parts of the country for the immediate future.”

Pascagoula, Miss., added the highest percentage of new construction jobs (47 percent, 2,000 jobs), followed by Eau Claire, Wis. (29 percent, 900 jobs); Hanford-Corcoran, Calif. (29 percent, 200 jobs) and Napa, Calif. (25 percent, 600 jobs). Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, Ariz. added the most new jobs (13,000 jobs, 15 percent), followed by Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas (9,700 jobs, 9 percent); Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, Mass. (9,100 jobs, 18 percent); Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, Texas (8,900 jobs, 5 percent) and Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas (8,800 jobs, 15 percent).
The largest job losses were in Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif. (-3,100 jobs, -5 percent), followed by Cincinnati, Ohio/Middletown, Ky. (-2,800 jobs, -7 percent); Sacramento/Arden/Arcade/Roseville, Calif. (-2,800 jobs, -7 percent) and Northern Virginia (-2,600 jobs, -4 percent). Rockford, Ill. (-18 percent, -800 jobs) and Steubenville, Ohio/Weirton, W.V. (-18 percent, -300 jobs) lost the highest percentage. Other areas experiencing large percentage declines in construction employment included Decatur, Ill. (-14 percent, -500 jobs); Mansfield, Ohio (-14 percent, -300 jobs) and Pocatello, Idaho (-14 percent, -200 jobs).

Association officials said the new, mostly positive, figures were welcome news for a construction industry that bore the brunt of the recent economic downturn. But they cautioned that years of dwindling employment prospects and neglect of vocational and skills-based educational programs have discouraged many potential job seekers from considering careers in construction. They said contractors in some faster-growing metro areas were likely to have a tougher time finding skilled workers if the industry continues to add jobs.

“It is encouraging to see construction employment on the rebound in so many parts of the country,” said Stephen Sandherr, the association’s CEO. “We need to make sure, however, that we have education and immigration policies in place that encourage more people to consider high-paying construction careers.”