The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, March 30, 2012

2012 employment starts with a thud

By The Building Tradesman

Construction employment in Michigan in January 2012 fell 3 percent, with 2,900 fewer jobs compared to January 2011.

That’s the word from the Associated General Contractors of America, which reported March 20 that construction employment fell during that period in nearly a third of the nation’s 337 metro areas. The employment numbers jibe with the slow rate of construction spending (see Short Cuts article).

“The mixed construction employment results reflect the conflict between slowly rebounding private sector demand for construction and declining public sector investments,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “For every metro area that is adding construction jobs, there is another one where construction employment continues to fall or is stagnant.”

Michigan had only a few regions that were not in the middle of the pack of construction activity among metro regions in the U.S. Battle Creek was the only area in the top 10 – employment grew 17 percent from January 2011 to January 2012, representing an increase of 200 jobs.

At the lower end of the rankings, Detroit- Livonia- Dearborn came in at No. 304 (-9 percent), while Kalamazoo-Portage and Lansing/East Lansing were tied at No. 324 (both -13 percent).

AGC officials said that the relatively mixed construction employment numbers would have been much better if Washington wasn’t years late in passing a number of key infrastructure measures to fund highway, transit, water and utility maintenance and upgrades. They noted that hundreds of contractors were gathering in Washington, D.C. on March 20 to push for action of highway and transit legislation as part of the “Rally for Roads,” for example.

“What makes these jobs figures so frustrating is that they could, and should, have been much better,” said the association’s chief executive officer, Stephen E. Sandherr. “There is a growing sense among the broader business community that the economy is being held back by Washington’s failure to reach agreement on legislation everyone agrees is essential.”