New employment numbers show steep losses in construction nationwide

WASHINGTON — Construction workers continued to bear the pain of steep job losses almost everywhere in June, as construction employment rose only in North Dakota (by 5%) and Louisiana (4%), compared to June 2008, according to new data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Jobs disappeared in the remaining 48 states and the District of Columbia, with losses as great as 26% in Arizona, 23% in Nevada, 22% in Connecticut and 20% in Tennessee, noted Ken Simonson, the chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America.

“The Recovery Act will start mitigating job losses in all states for the rest of the year and into 2010,” said Simonson. “But the worsening state and local fiscal picture, along with continued sluggishness in the private sector, means that nonresidential construction work will keep shrinking.

“Single-family homebuilders appear finally to have touched bottom and should begin hiring on net,” Simonson commented. “However, the multi-family market remains moribund, with weak demand, excessive supply in many states and no credit availability.”

Simonson urged Congress to act quickly on transferring money into the federal Highway Trust Fund to avert interruption of payments to highway contractors that would force more layoffs. He also called for prompt enactment of pending authorization bills for highways and transit, aviation and water projects, along with passage of appropriations bills that include federal construction. “All of these bills will deliver both short- and long-term benefits to the American public, while providing desperately needed jobs for construction workers in every state,” he added.