Every one of California�s 28 largest metropolitan areas saw a decrease in construction employment between October 2008 and October 2009, according to a new analysis of metropolitan area employment data released today by the Associated General Contractors of America.
The association says that state regulators need to rethink plans to force contractors to replace existing equipment as shrinking demand for construction wiped out 136,000 construction jobs statewide.
“Collapsing demand for construction services throughout the state is devastating workers and forcing contractors to idle billions of dollars worth of equipment,” says the association’s chief economist Ken Simonson. “Requiring contractors to spend money to replace idled equipment will force even more construction workers out of a job.”
Association officials again urges the California Air Resources Board to reconsider plans to require the state’s construction companies to replace billions of dollars worth of construction equipment as part of their “off-road diesel retrofit” rule. They noted that the economic downturn has already done more to reduce construction-related diesel emissions than state regulators predicted. CARB previously estimated 147,000 pieces of construction equipment would be present in the state in 2009, but have only located 103,000 pieces this year, indicating 30% of equipment was sold for pennies on the dollar.
“Forcing companies to spend money on unneeded equipment will simply deprive workers of desperately needed jobs,” says Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s CEO. “After all, there’s no difference in emissions between new and old construction equipment when all they’re doing is sitting unused.”
Meanwhile, Simonson notes that Redding had the largest percentage decline in the state with a 30% drop in construction employment. Other California cities with large percentage declines in construction employment included El Centro (29%); Santa Cruz-Watsonville (22%); San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara (20%); and Salinas and Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario (both with 19%). Simonson adds that Los Angeles lost the most construction jobs (16,600). The statewide decrease was 18% in the past 12 months and 35% since peaking in February 2006.
Nationally, only five out of 337 metropolitan areas saw an increase in construction employment between October 2008 and October 2009, according to a new analysis of metropolitan area employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Construction employment nationally tumbled by 1.1 million jobs over the past 12 months alone, with 328 metro areas reporting losses. Construction employment was unchanged in four metros.
“Imagine if the entire population of greater Salt Lake City lost their jobs, because that’s basically what has happened to construction employment in America’s largest communities,” says Simonson. “In many communities, construction employment isn’t just contracting, it is collapsing.”
Simonson notes that Reno-Sparks, Nev., again had the largest percentage decline with a 32% drop in construction employment. Other cities outside California with large percentage declines in construction employment included Kokomo, Ind. (31%); and the Cleveland area (28%). Simonson adds that the Phoenix metro area lost the most construction jobs (33,000); followed by Atlanta (24,700); and Las Vegas-Paradise (24,500).
In comparison, only one community saw double-digit job gains. Columbus, Ind., again led the nation in construction job growth with a 20% increase, totaling 400 added construction jobs. Four other cities saw increases in construction employment, Anderson, Ind. (6%); Harrisburg-Carlisle, Penn. (5%); Tulsa, Ok. 3%); and the Davenport, Iowa area (1%). Those five communities combined added only 1,900 construction jobs over the past 12 months.
“Getting construction workers back on the job will provide a significant economic boost to virtually every community in America,” says Sandherr. “The lesson for Washington ought to be clear: we should be building our way out of the country’s current bleak employment picture.”
Sandherr urges Congress and the Administration to include new construction and infrastructure investments as the core component of any new measures designed to address an employment market that has left over 10% of Americans, and 18.7% of construction workers, unemployed.