The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, April 05, 2019

Old Man Winter puts kibosh on U.S. construction

By The Building Tradesman

The brutal winter weather brought a beat-down to construction employment in Michigan, and it wasn't kind to much of the rest of the nation, either.

In a single month, from January to February 2019, Michigan saw a decline of 4,700 construction jobs, a drop of 2.7 percent in the industry's workforce. Delaware and Minnesota were the only states that had greater percentage drops of construction employment, both falling 3.0 percent that month. 

The update on U.S. construction employment, released March 22 by the Associated General Contractors of America, based on Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers, found that the Polar Vortex and heavy snowfall in large swaths of the country meant there was increased industry employment in only 16 states from January to February. Fortunately, that decline isn't expected to become a trend, as long-term, 37 states, including Michigan, added construction jobs between February 2018 and February 2019.

"Although job growth remains widespread on a year-over-year basis, the combination of exceptionally bad weather and record low unemployment in many states stopped the growth of construction jobs at least temporarily in February," said AGC chief economist Ken Simonson. "The record number of job openings in construction reported in the government's Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey for January shows that finding qualified construction workers is still a challenge."

Michigan's one-month decline of 4,700 construction jobs is striking, given the long-term trend. Our state still managed a gain of 5,900 construction jobs (+3.5 percent) during the 12 months between February 2018 and February 2019, ranking us No. 18 among the states in job gains.

The top employment states by percentage over the past year included West Virginia, which gained 16,000 jobs (+46.4 percent); Nevada (+11.7 percent, +10,200 jobs), and Alaska (+1,700 jobs, +11.0 percent).