New York loses 32,000 construction jobs during COVID-19 pandemic, largest in the nation

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New York has lost more construction jobs than any other state during the COVID-19 pandemic.  While the numbers weren’t “dead last” for January, 2022, the most recent data indicates that the state still has a long way to go to turn the tide.

Overall federal employment data indicates that the state lost 32,000 jobs during the pandemic, or 7.8% of its construction workforce, according to a report compiled by the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America. North Dakota was tied with New York for the percentage loss — but that state’s construction workforce has always been much smaller.

In January, New York lost 2,900 jobs or 0.8%, ranking it 41th in the nation. The current construction employment in the state of 376,200 compares to 408,200 before the pandemic.

Nationally, construction employment remains below pre-pandemic levels in 21 states and D.C. while 29 states now employ more construction workers than in February 2020. Association officials said the new figures underscore how spiking materials prices and tight labor markets are undermining the sector’s recovery.

“Employment has risen in most of the nation over the past year, but contractors are having an increasingly hard time finding all the workers they need as unemployment hits record lows in more states,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “The scramble for workers is likely to drive wages and overtime costs even higher at the same time rising materials prices are cutting into already tight margins.”

From February 2020—the month before the pandemic caused projects to be halted or canceled—to January 2022, construction employment decreased in 21 states and D.C., and increased in 29 states. After New York, the biggest job losses were in Texas (-29,400 jobs, -3.8 percent), California (-28,600 jobs, -3.1 percent), and Pennsylvania (-10,500 jobs, -4.0 percent). The largest percentage losses were in New York, North Dakota (-7.8 percent, 2,200 jobs), Oklahoma (-6.7 percent, -5,500 jobs), and New Mexico (-5.8 percent, -3,000 jobs).

Utah added the most construction jobs since February 2020 (10,400 jobs, 9.1 percent), followed by Indiana (8,600 jobs, 5.8 percent), and Missouri (7,100 jobs, 5.5 percent). The largest percentage gains were in Montana (11.4 percent, 3,500 jobs), followed by Idaho (10 percent, 5,500 jobs), and Utah.

From December to January construction employment decreased in 19 states and D.C., increased in 27 and was unchanged in Delaware, Idaho, Nebraska and South Carolina. Illinois lost the most jobs (-7,100 jobs, -3.1 percent), followed by Texas (-5,000 jobs, -0.7 percent) and New York (-2,900 jobs, -0.8 percent). Illinois also had largest percentage decline, followed by New Mexico (-2.2 percent, -1,100 jobs), Louisiana (-2.1 percent, -2,800 jobs), and Rhode Island (-2.0 percent, -400 jobs).

Other states besides North Carolina gaining jobs in January included Ohio (2,800 jobs, 1.2 percent) and Mississippi (2,100 jobs, 4.5 percent). Mississippi had the largest percentage gain, followed by Maine (2.2 percent, 700 jobs) and Vermont (2.0 percent, 300 jobs).

Association officials said that many contractors are struggling to cope with rapidly rising prices for a broad range of key construction materials. They cautioned that anyone procuring construction services should expect to pay more as costs for steel, diesel and many other products rise rapidly. They also urged public officials to look for ways to help construction firms offset losses from spiking materials prices on existing projects.

“Construction firms are going to have to pass along the rising materials prices to remain successful,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “And construction firms should not be punished for failing to foresee a Russian invasion, spiking oil prices and soaring inflation when preparing public works bids.”

View state February 2020-January 2022 and 23-month , s.

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