New York has recorded the nation’s largest loss in construction jobs because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an analysis of US government data gathered by the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America.
The state lost 39,700 jobs between February and November, or 9.7 percent of the workforce. The October/November numbers reflected some stability, with only 100 jobs lost in the month. Nevertheless, only 371,400 people were employed in construction jobs in the state in November compared to 411,000 in February.
Nationally, AGC reports that construction employment in November remained below pre-pandemic levels in 35 states and the District of Columbia even though 31 states and D.C. added construction jobs from October to November. Association officials urged federal officials to swiftly renew a program to enable firms to keep workers on their payrolls while the pandemic is pushing back the start date for many projects.
“An increase in project cancellations and postponements is forcing nonresidential contractors to lay off workers as they complete projects started before the pandemic and firms exhaust their Paycheck Protection Program loans,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Despite strong demand for single-family homebuilding and remodeling, overall industry employment is likely to shrink in more states in the absence of federal assistance.”
Seasonally adjusted construction employment in November was lower than in February—the last month before the pandemic forced many contractors to suspend work—in 37 states, Simonson noted.
Only 15 states and the District of Columbia added construction jobs from February to November. Virginia added the most jobs and highest percentage (11,800 jobs, 5.8 percent), followed by Utah (5,800 jobs, 5.1 percent).
Construction employment decreased from October to November in 17 states, increased in 31 states and D.C., and was unchanged in Maine and Nebraska. California had the largest loss of construction jobs from October to November (-5,800 jobs or -0.7 percent), followed by New Jersey (-3,800 jobs, -2.5 percent) and Nevada (-3,700 jobs, -3.9 percent). Nevada had the largest percentage decline, followed by South Dakota (-3.8 percent, -1,000 jobs).
Texas added the most construction jobs over the month (7,500 jobs, 1.0 percent), followed by Pennsylvania (4,300 jobs, 1.7 percent). Delaware had the largest percentage gain for the month (3.8 percent, 800 jobs), followed by Utah (2.6 percent, 3,000 jobs).
Association officials urged members of Congress to promptly pass a renewal of the Paycheck Protection Program, which saved thousands of construction workers from layoffs earlier in the year. They added that the legislation should also make clear that Congress did not intend for firms to incur tax liability when using the loans as intended.
“While the pandemic is causing more and more construction to be canceled or postponed, it is imperative that Congress renew the loan program that will keep contractors from shutting their doors and workers from losing their jobs,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “In addition, it is vital that Congress stop the Treasury from playing ‘gotcha’ with firms that rightly expected their loans to be treated as nontaxable.”