NYC area suffers major pandemic construction employment losses, while upstate communities gain ground: AGC

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The story about how the pandemic has affected construction employment differs greatly when you compare New York City to New York State.

NYC and nearby Nassau County-Suffolk County suffered the second and third-largest employment losses in the nation during the pandemic, losing 24,000 jobs (15%) and 4,500 jobs (6%) respectively.

But in smaller communities and upstate the picture is very different. Albany-Schenectady-Troy gained 4,000 jobs — a 22% increase — from just before the pandemic in February, 2020 to July, 2021. Rochester gained an even more dramatic 5,900 jobs, making it (and Utica/Rome and Watertown/Ft. Drum among the 13th most successful metro areas in the country.

Statewide, the city lost just 1% of its construction work force, dropping from 381,900 to 377,330.

The Associated General Contractors (AGC) compiled the reports from federal government employment data.

Here is the data by metro area. The numbers indicate employment levels in February, 2020, July 2021, the actual change, and the percentage difference.

  • Statewide Construction 381,900 377,300 -4,600 -1%
  • Statewide Mining, Logging, and Construction 386,700 383,200 -3,500 -1%
  • Albany-Schenectady-Troy Mining, Logging, and Construction 18,300 22,300 4,000 22% 43
  • Binghamton Mining, Logging, and Construction 3,300 4,300 1,000 30% 13
  • Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls Mining, Logging, and Construction 18,100 23,500 5,400 30% 13
  • Dutchess County-Putnam County Div. Mining, Logging, and Construction 8,000 8,100 100 1% 259
  • Elmira Mining, Logging, and Construction 1,300 1,600 300 23% 37
  • Glens Falls Mining, Logging, and Construction 2,400 2,700 300 13% 107
  • Ithaca Mining, Logging, and Construction 1,200 1,300 100 8% 162
  • Kingston Mining, Logging, and Construction 2,500 3,000 500 20% 54
  • Nassau County-Suffolk County Div. Mining, Logging, and Construction 79,100 74,600 -4,500 -6% 319
  • New York City Mining, Logging, and Construction 157,900 133,900 -24,000 -15% 348
  • Orange-Rockland-Westchester Mining, Logging, and Construction 42,400 42,500 100 0.2%
  • 271 Rochester Construction 19,600 25,500 5,900 30% 13
  • Syracuse Mining, Logging, and Construction 11,700 14,000 2,300 20% 54
  • Utica-Rome Mining, Logging, and Construction 3,000 3,900 900 30% 13
  • Watertown-Fort Drum Mining, Logging, and Construction 1,500 1,700 200 13% 10

Nationally, the AGC reports that three-fourths of all metro areas added construction jobs between July 2020 and last month. Association officials noted that while many metro areas have added jobs since last summer, construction employment still lags pre-pandemic levels in many areas as the industry faces a host of challenges.

“The rapid spread of the delta variant of coronavirus, along with soaring materials costs and multiple supply-chain difficulties, appears to be causing some project owners to delay starting construction,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “However, the virus flare-up threatens further job gains, particularly because construction workers have a lower vaccination rate and thus a higher risk of becoming ill than other occupations.”

Construction employment increased in 268 out of 358 metro areas over the last 12 months. Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Wash. added the most construction jobs (10,200 jobs, 10 percent), followed by Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade, Calif. (9,100 jobs, 13 percent); Pittsburgh, Pa. (8,300 jobs, 14 percent); and Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights, Ill (7,700 jobs, 6 percent). Waterbury, Conn. had the highest percentage increase (29 percent, 800 jobs), followed by Lawrence-Methuen Town-Salem, Mass. (26 percent, 900 jobs); Hanford-Corcoran, Calif. (22 percent, 200 jobs); and Bloomington, Ill. (21 percent, 600 jobs).

Construction employment declined from a year earlier in 54 metros and held steady in 36. Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas lost the most jobs: 7,000 or 3 percent, followed by New York City (-6,300 jobs, -4 percent); Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall, Fla. (-3,500 jobs, -7 percent); Nassau County-Suffolk County, N.Y. (-2,400 jobs, -3 percent) and Calvert-Charles-Prince George’s, Md. (-2,400 jobs, -7 percent). The largest percentage declines, 11 percent, were in Atlantic City-Hammonton, N.J. (-600 jobs) and Evansville, Ind.-Ky. (-1,100 jobs), followed by 9 percent decreases in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (-600 jobs) and Victoria, Texas (-300 jobs).

Association officials urged federal officials to take steps to address supply-chain woes and boost demand for many types of construction services. They continued to call for the removal of tariffs on a host of critical construction materials, including steel and aluminum. And they urged the House of Representatives to quickly pass bipartisan infrastructure legislation that would give a needed boost to construction demand at a time when many private sector owners are rethinking projects amid rising prices and the spiking coronavirus cases.

“Washington officials have the ability to help offset soaring materials prices and boost flagging demand for commercial construction,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “The president should put an immediate end to tariffs that are needlessly inflating the cost of key materials and members of the House should rapidly approve the bipartisan infrastructure bill.”

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