A year or so ago, Indiana and Ohio were adding construction-related jobs at rates that surpassed most other states in the nation. A year later, Indiana is dead last, having shed 10,100 jobs in August in year-over-year comparisons, and Ohio isn't far behind, having shed 6,100 jobs for the same period.
Construction employment in the two states has been sliding for some time, the result of slowing global demand for products they produce, meaning anything involving automobile parts, fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and high-tech equipment. As a result, all bets are off for construction projects involving those sectors, at least for now.
In a flip-flop of sorts, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin, are showing signs of stability in construction employment, despite challenges ranging from the implosion of Detroit's economy to economic problems in Springfield, Illinois, including boat loads of debt and failure to enact pension reform. The current unemployment in Illinois is 9.5%, about two points above the national average.
Nevertheless, the state has launched some ambitious construction programs variously funded by general obligation bonds, hikes in tollway fares and, in the case of a planned $800-million Transit Center at O'Hare International Airport, federal funding. Many of these projects were sold on the basis of their ability to create construction jobs, among other virtues. Question is whether the fundamentals for sustained construction employment will be in place once those projects are completed.