All states lost construction jobs in 2009, December data show

WASHINGTON -- For the first time since the start of the economic downturn, every state and the District of Columbia reported losing construction jobs over the past 12 months, according to a new analysis of state-by-state employment data released in late January. The analysis, conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America, found few signs of a construction industry recovery with only six states reporting construction job increases between November and December 2009.

“There’s nowhere for construction workers to turn for relief from job losses and hardship,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Sifting through the monthly variations, it is obvious that construction employment is losing ground almost everywhere.”

Simonson noted that Nevada experienced the largest annual percentage decrease in construction employment (27.7%), followed by Wyoming (23.8%); Tennessee (20%); Montana (19.6%); and Arizona (19%). He added that California had lost more construction jobs (116,100) than any other state during the past year.

The smallest declines in construction employment between December 2009 and December 2009 were in Louisiana (3.5%); D.C. (4%); Oklahoma (4%); West Virginia (4.2%); and North Dakota (4.8%), the economist noted. Simonson added that the District of Columbia lost the fewest of construction jobs (500) during that time.

Unusually cold and wintry weather throughout most of the country in December contributed to the downward trend in monthly construction employment, Simonson suggested. He said that compared to November reports showing 24 states added construction jobs during the past month, the December report had only six states adding jobs after normal seasonal adjustments (which does not take into account exceptional mild or harsh weather.) Mississippi had the largest monthly percentage increase in construction employment (1.2%) followed by Virginia (1.1%); Hawaii (1%); Oklahoma (1%); South Carolina (0.5%); and New Mexico (0.2%). Meanwhile, Montana had the largest monthly percentage decrease (10.5%), followed by North Dakota (9.6%); Wyoming (6.8%); Nevada (5.7%); and Wisconsin (5.5%).

Given that 90% of contractors don’t expect a recovery in 2010, according to an industry forecast the association released earlier in January, construction officials urged Congress and the Administration to act now to avoid continued construction job losses.

“The best way to boost employment is to continue making the kind of infrastructure investments everyone agrees our country needs to remain globally competitive,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which compiles the employment figures, combines mining and logging with construction employment in Delaware, D.C., Hawaii, Maryland, Nebraska, South Dakota and Tennessee.