The pace of economic recovery in the West and Southwest continues to outpace that of the Midwest, a phenomenon that is boosting construction employment in metro markets such as Dallas and Los Angeles but yielding diminishing returns in Chicago, Detroit, Akron and Cincinnati.

In fact, Chicago lost more jobs in January than any metro market in the nation, according to year-over-year comparisons compiled by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). Except for a handful of apartment towers – the result of massive foreclosures in the area – and a 45-story mixed-use project currently under construction, the buildings market is largely idle in Chicago.

Massive road programs undertaken by the Illinois Department of Transportation and Illinois Tollway Authority promise to bring more jobs to the area this spring and summer, but other sectors continue to be sidelined by poor fundamentals. Either the demand or the money isn't there.

Elsewhere, AGC Chief Economist Keith Simonson reports, “Not only are a slight plurality of of metro areas adding construction jobs, but those areas appear to be adding jobs at a faster rate than places where construction continues to decline. Considering the already-released national construction employment figures for February, we are likely to see more metro ares adding jobs in our next report.”

However, AGC notes that years of declining construction employment has prompted many industry members to retire or seek work in other fields.

“If the industry continues to add jobs, it won't be long contractors in some parts of the country are scrambling to find enough skilled workers to meet demand,” says AGC CEO Stephen Sandherr.