The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, January 06, 2012


By The Building Tradesman

State’s jobs picture a bit brighter

Michigan’s construction industry didn’t have too much to brag about during much of the fourth quarter of 2011, but compared to other states, it was a relatively good year.

Our state ranked No. 9 in the percentage of construction jobs gained from November 2010 to November 2011, according to the monthly report by the Associated General Contractors of America released Dec. 20.

Michigan added a net total of 4,100 jobs (+3.3 percent) during that 12-month period, but the positive numbers were cut off at the knees by a loss of  2,800 jobs between September and November 2011.

Overall in the U.S., the AGC said, construction took a bit of a hit last month, with industry employment only rising in 19 states from October to November. (Michigan saw a 0.2 percent drop during that period). In recent months there has been a near-even split between states with construction employment gains and losses.

“Although there have been selective improvements in private nonresidential employment, multi-family construction and even home building in a few states, public construction employment declines are negating these gains in much of the country,” said Ken Simonson, the AGC’s chief economist. “The map of gains and losses is likely to remain very checkered for several more months.”

During the 12-month November 2011 to November 2012 period, North Dakota was in a league of its own among the states, with a 17.6 percent increase in construction jobs. Next came Indiana (+8.1 percent), Rhode Island (+6.5 percent), Oklahoma (+6.0 percent) and Oregon (+5.2 percent).

Among the bottom-dwelling states during those 12 months, New Mexico experienced the steepest decline in construction employment (-13 percent), followed by Wisconsin (-9.5 percent), Kentucky (-8.9 percent) and Georgia, which shed the largest number of jobs over the year (-8.0 percent, -11,500 jobs).

AGC officials said the failure of Congress to enact long-term transportation and infrastructure funding bills was holding back hiring by public-works contractors.

“When federal funds are assured for only a few months at a time, states and contractors are unable to start long-term projects, and employment in a state can drop as soon as a major project ends,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer.

Overall jobless rate is better, too

Michigan saw a welcome decline of six spots in November to the 10th highest unemployment rate among states, according to a Dec. 21 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Our state’s 0.8 percentage point decline to a 9.8 percent jobless rate was the largest drop in the country over the month and was followed by 0.6 percentage point drops in Alabama, Minnesota, South Carolina and Utah.

There are now seven other states with jobless rates at or above 10 percent: Nevada (13 percent), California (11.3 percent), Mississippi and Rhode Island (10.5 percent apiece), and Florida, Illinois and North Carolina (10 percent apiece).

Georgia and South Carolina are also now ahead of Michigan, with unemployment rates of 9.9 percent apiece.