COVID-19 construction employment story dismal in NYC but positive upstate: AGC

agc employment map aug

The story of how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected construction employment opportunities depends largely on whether you are working in New York City or Upstate.

The story in NYC is painful. In the months between February 2020 and June 2021, the city lost 14% of its construction jobs, declining by 22,000 from 157,900 to 135,900, according to data compiled by the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America compiled from government sources.

But look at Utica-Rome. The market is much smaller, of course, and includes mining and logging in the calculation. Employment grew by 27%, or 800 workers, from 3,000 to 3,800, making it the nation’s 17th fastest growing market area. And Binhamton did even better — showing a 30% growth (or adding 1,000 jobs from 3,300 to 4,300), making it the 11th in the nation.

Overall, the state lost 3% of its construction jobs, balancing the rapid growth in some of the smaller market areas against the huge declines in NYC.

See the data by community below:

Numbers employed Feb. 2020; June 2021; change in past 16 months; percentage change in the past 16 months, national rank

Statewide Construction 381,900 371,400 -10,500 -3%

  • Statewide Mining, Logging, and Construction 386,700 376,900 -9,800 -3%
  • Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY Mining, Logging, and Construction 18,300 21,500 3,200 17% 62
  • Binghamton Mining, Logging, and Construction 3,300 4,300 1,000 30% 11
  • Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls Mining, Logging, and Construction 18,100 23,400 5,300 29% 12
  • Dutchess County-Putnam County Div. Mining, Logging, and Construction 8,000 8,000 0 0% 258
  • Elmira Mining, Logging, and Construction 1,300 1,500 200 15% 73
  • Glens Falls Mining, Logging, and Construction 2,400 2,700 300 13% 92
  • Ithaca Mining, Logging, and Construction 1,200 1,300 100 8% 154
  • Kingston Mining, Logging, and Construction 2,500 2,900 400 16% 68
  • Nassau County-Suffolk County Div. Mining, Logging, and Construction 79,100 73,100 -6,000 -8% 329
  • New York City Mining, Logging, and Construction 157,900 135,900 -22,000 -14% 346
  • Orange-Rockland-Westchester Mining, Logging, and Construction 42,400 41,500 -900 -2% 289
  • Rochester Construction 19,600 23,600 4,000 20% 41
  • Syracuse Mining, Logging, and Construction 11,700 13,000 1,300 11% 107
  • Utica-Rome Mining, Logging, and Construction 3,000 3,800 800 27% 17
  • Watertown-Fort Drum Mining, Logging, and Construction 1,500 1,700 200 13% 92

Nationally, construction employment declined or stagnated in 101 metro areas between February 2020 and June 2021, AGC reported in its July 28 analysis.

Association officials said that labor shortages and supply chain problems were keeping many firms from adding workers in many parts of the country.

“Typically, construction employment increases between February and June in all but 30 metro areas,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “The fact that more than three times as many metros as usual failed to add construction jobs, despite a hot housing market, is an indication of the continuing impact of the pandemic on both demand for nonresidential projects and the supply of workers.”

Eighty metro areas had lower construction employment in June 2021 than February 2020, while industry employment was unchanged in 21 areas. Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas lost the most jobs: 33,400 or 14 percent. Major losses also occurred in New York City (-22,000 jobs, -14 percent); Midland, Texas (-9,300 jobs, -24 percent); Odessa, Texas (-7,900 jobs, -38 percent) and Baton Rouge, La. (-7,700 jobs, -16 percent). Odessa had the largest percentage decline, followed by Lake Charles, La. (-34 percent, -6,700 jobs); Laredo, Texas (-25 percent, -1,000 jobs); Midland; and Longview, Texas (-22 percent, -3,300 jobs).

Of the 257 metro areas—72 percent—added construction jobs over the February 2020 level, Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights, IL. added the most construction jobs over 16 months (14,300 jobs, 12 percent), followed by Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minn.-Wis. (13,800 jobs, 18 percent); Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, Ind. (10,700 jobs, 20 percent); Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills, Mich. (9,300 jobs, 18 percent); and Pittsburgh, Pa. (7,600 jobs, 13 percent). Fargo, N.D.-Minn. had the highest percentage increase (50 percent, 3,700 jobs), followed by Sierra Vista-Douglas, Ariz. (48 percent, 1,200 jobs); Bay City, Mich. (45 percent, 500 jobs); St. Cloud, Minn. (39 percent, 2,400 jobs) and Kankakee, Ill. (36 percent, 400 jobs).

Association officials urged Congress and the Biden administration to make new investments in workforce development and to take steps to address supply chain issues. “They called for additional funding for career and technical education; they noted that craft training receives only one-sixth as much federal funding as college preparation.” They also continued to call on the president to remove tariffs on key construction materials like steel and aluminum.

“Federal officials may talk about the value of craft careers like construction, but they are failing to put their money where their mouth is,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Until we expose more people to construction careers, and get a handle on soaring materials prices, the construction industry is likely to have a hard time recovering from the pandemic.”

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