While no state in the Southwest posted month-over-month construction employment growth in December 2015, both Arizona and Nevada showed significant year-over-year job growth in the sector according to data released by state agencies in Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico. Construction employment in Nevada grew by 8.6% between December 2014 and December 2015 while construction jobs rose 5% in Arizona over the same span.
New Mexico did not fare as well as its counterparts, with construction employment dropping 3.5% year-over-year.
The construction sector posted significant employment gains in December 2015, adding 5,500 jobs year over year, according to a press release issued by Nevada’s Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation. That translates to an 8.6% growth rate, which leads all sectors in the state. However, the month-over-month numbers are less encouraging. Construction employment fell to a seasonally-adjusted 69,700 jobs in December compared to 70,500 jobs in November.
Still, Nevada’s overall employment outlook is positive. Nevada’s unemployment rate fell to 6.4% in December. That figure marks the lowest unemployment rate the state has seen since June 2008. The state also posted employment gains for the 60th straight month.
“Nevada’s labor force is surging,” says Bill Anderson, chief economist for Nevada’s Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation. “For all of 2015, preliminary estimates suggest that the Silver State’s labor force is up by nearly 26,000 relative to 2014. Despite the fact that this limits downward pressure on the jobless rate, this is a positive development, as it suggests there is growing confidence in the overall health of the labor market and job prospects.”
According to data from the Associated General Contractors, the percentage gain year-over-year in Nevada for not seasonally adjusted construction employment was better than all but four states: Arkansas, Hawaii, Iowa and South Dakota. The Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise metropolitan area once again paced the state, with a gain of about 5,400 construction jobs for December year-over-year. Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise metropolitan area construction employment as of December 2015 was reported as 53,700, not seasonally adjusted. Despite construction of the Tesla factory and other activity in the Reno metropolitan area, employment remained unchanged at 10,900 in December, year-over-year, according to the Associated General Contractors.
The Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise metropolitan area ranked No. 31 in U.S. metropolitan area percentage gains year-over-year.
Following a similar trend, Arizona gained 6,300 construction jobs year-over-year in December 2015. Despite these positive numbers, Arizona lost 2,100 construction jobs month-over-month in December, according to a recently released Arizona’s Workforce Employment Report. Construction employment in the state is estimated at 132,300.
The Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale metropolitan area construction employment, not seasonally adjusted, is estimated at 104,000 for December 2015, a decline of about 1,400 from November 2015 but up from 96,700 in December 2014. The year-over-year percentage increase in the Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale area is 7.5%, according to the Arizona Department of Administration.
The Tucson and Flagstaff metropolitan areas experienced -3% and -5% declines, respectively, in construction employment year-over-year.
According to Associated General Contractors, Arizona’s percentage of construction employment gains year-over-year are in the middle of the pack when compared to the rest of the nation, tied with Georgia and Alabama at 5%. The Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale metropolitan area ranked No. 61 in U.S. metropolitan area percentage gains year-over-year.
Overall, Arizona posted a seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate of 5.8% in December, down 0.2% from November. That rate is also a significant year-over-year improvement compared to the 6.6% rate posted in December 2014. The state also gained 7,100 non-farm jobs month over month in December. Those gains bring total non-farm employment to 2,709,500, a year-over-year increase of 2.5%.
New Mexico
Construction employment was down across the board in New Mexico in December, according to a New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions news release. The industry lost 1,500 compared to December 2014. The month-over-month numbers show construction employment in the state fell by 1,000 jobs compared to November. Not seasonally adjusted construction employment in New Mexico is estimated at 41,800.
According to the Associated General Contractors, New Mexico joined six other states with negative construction employment growth. However, only North Dakota at -9% and Virginia at -4% experienced bigger percentage declines. The Albuquerque metropolitan area gained 100 construction jobs, a .5% increase, in December, year-over-year. The second-largest MSA, Santa Fe, saw a 8% decline year-over-year.
The Albuquerque metropolitan area ranked No. 188 in U.S. metropolitan area percentage gains year-over-year.
Total non-farm employment in New Mexico fell from 837,600 in November to 835,800 in December. However, non-farm employment in the state is still up 0.3% year over year. New Mexico’s unemployment rate dropped 0.1% to 6.7% between November and December 2015. 
Wayne Schutsky contributed to this report.