Construction Employment Rise May Not Last, Warns Contractors Association

Government data shows construction jobs are on the rise across the country, but there's a chance that growth has already begun to slow.

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According to an analysis of government data by the Associated General Contractors of America, 31 states saw a rise in construction employment from May to June. The construction sector added 158,000 jobs nationwide, with 82,600 of them in residential construction.

New York, a state heavily impacted by the coronavirus and related shutdowns earlier in the year, added 24,000 construction jobs from May to June, the most of any state. Conversely, Louisiana saw the largest drop in construction employment over the same time period, losing 3,900 jobs.

While some might be tempted to see this growth as part of an ongoing upward trend, AGC officials are less optimistic. Part of their concern stems from data from Procore, a construction management software that tracks, among other things, the amount of hours workers spent on the jobsite.

Procore’s software reported that while there was certainly a sharp rise in construction activity in early June, jobsite hours have dropped significantly since. In the first weeks of that month, Procore software recorded jobsite hours at around 15.1 million per week. But by the end of the month it had fallen to 14.6 million per week

“The widespread job gains in June follow even more universal increases in May,” said Ken Simonson, the AGC’s chief economist. “But the government’s employment snapshot was based on payrolls during the week of June 12. More recent data collected by Procore on hours worked on jobsites suggests employment topped out around mid-June and may have begun to decline.”

Association officials also voiced concerns that recent spikes in coronavirus rates across the country would force some states back into stricter lockdown protocols, delaying projects and forcing more layoffs. Stephen Sandherr, the AGC’s CEO, called on the federal government to help keep construction rates from declining again.

“Only the federal government has the means to keep infrastructure and other needed public construction on track,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “It would be tragic to miss the opportunity to support the economy, keep thousands of construction employees at work, and invest in much-needed upgrades to roads, transportation facilities, water and sewer systems.”

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