Statewide New York construction employment: How has it fared with COVID-19?

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Construction employment declined in more than nine out of 10 metro areas from March to April, a time when industry employment typically increases in most locations, an by the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America of new government data shows.

New York City showed a dramatic decline in construction employment, dropping to 78,100 from 154,000 in a matter of weeks, the sharpest overall decline in the nation. Other New York communities showed painful, but relatively less severe, job losses.

Here are is the data for individual regions, with the number of employees in March, April, the percentage change and the number of employees added (or lost), and the national ranking.

  • New York Statewide Construction 38,380 39,020 2% 640
  • Statewide Mining, Logging, and Construction 38,860 39,500 2% 640
  • Albany-Schenectady-Troy Mining, Logging, and Construction 20,500 15,800 -23% -4,700 310
  • Binghamton Mining, Logging, and Construction 3,400 2,600 -24% -800 313
  • Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls Mining, Logging, and Construction 19,400 13,500 -30% -5,900 327
  • Dutchess County-Putnam County Div. Mining, Logging, and Construction 8,300 7,300 -12% -1,000 239
  • Elmira Mining, Logging, and Construction 1,300 1,100 -15% -200 267
  • Glens Falls Mining, Logging, and Construction 2,200 1,900 -14% -300 262
  • Ithaca Mining, Logging, and Construction 1,200 1,100 -8% -100 161
  • Kingston Mining, Logging, and Construction 2,900 2,600 -10% -300 197
  • Nassau County-Suffolk County Div. Mining, Logging, and Construction 81,200 53,700 -34% -27,500 339
  • New York City Mining, Logging, and Construction 154,000 78,100 -49% -75,900 354
  • Orange-Rockland-Westchester Mining, Logging, and Construction 41,000 27,500 -33% -13,500 337
  • Rochester Construction 20,700 13,100 -37% -7,600 347
  • Syracuse Mining, Logging, and Construction 11,500 9,000 -22% -2,500 304
  • Utica-Rome Mining, Logging, and Construction 3,000 2,400 -20% -600 294
  • Watertown-Fort Drum Mining, Logging, and Construction 1,400 1,100 -21% -300 296

New federal transportation funding could help restore many lost construction jobs, but cautioned that new legislation released recently by House Democrats includes new regulatory measures that could undermine the broader goals of the measure.

“Today’s employment report shows how few areas were left unscathed by April’s unprecedented job losses,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Sadly, our latest survey shows project cancellations are escalating, making further job losses inevitable unless there is funding for widespread new projects.”

The economist said construction employment declined between March and April in 326, or 91 percent, out of 358 metro areas and increased in only 20 areas (6 percent). Industry employment was unchanged in 14 areas. Over the previous 30 years, 75 percent of metro areas added construction jobs from March to April, on average, while 12 percent of metros shed jobs.

New York City lost the largest number of construction jobs for the month: 75,900 jobs or 49 percent of the March total. There were also extremely large construction job losses in the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Wash. area, 44,200 jobs or 41 percent. Construction employment fell by half or more in three areas: Montgomery County-Bucks County-Chester County, Pa. (-54 percent, -27,200 jobs); Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills, Mich. (-52 percent, -26,100 jobs); and Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton, Mass. (-50 percent, -2,300 jobs).

Simonson noted that more respondents in the association’s latest reported an upcoming project had been canceled in May or June than in April, implying that further job losses are likely. One-fifth of respondents reported a project scheduled to begin in May had been canceled, as did nearly one-quarter (24 percent) of respondents regarding a project scheduled to start in June or later, compared to 16 percent in April.

Association officials said new federal infrastructure investments in roads, bridges, transit and rail systems, like those proposed in a new transportation bill released today by House Democrats, would provide a needed boost to construction employment in many parts of the country and support a broader economic recovery. But they cautioned that new programmatic and regulatory requirements in the measure could undermine some the bill’s potential economic benefits. They urged Congressional leaders to work in a broad, bipartisan manner to rapidly pass a measure that expands highway capacity, improves bridges, builds transit and rail systems and supports long-term economic growth before current legislation expires.

“It is encouraging to see House Democrats proposing a significant increase in investments for transportation infrastructure,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “With over 40 million people unemployed and construction jobs declining in most metro areas, Congress needs to ensure that new, sustainable, investments bring as many people back to work as possible to help improve our aging highway, transit and rail systems.”

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