Construction Employment Struggling to Recover From Pandemic Losses

Incremental growth in construction employment over the course of the year hasn't been enough to spur a full comeback in most parts of the country.

Jiale Tan/Getty Images

According to new analysis of government data conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America, construction employment in the U.S. remains below pre-pandemic levels in three-fourths of states. Only thirteen states and the District of Columbia posted positive gains in construction employment from February to October, while the rest have been unable to recover.

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“Although single-family homebuilding and remodeling contractors are adding workers, most states are likely to have a net loss of construction workers soon, especially from high-paying, nonresidential jobs,” said Ken Simonson, chief economist for the AGC.

In many states, month-over-month growth in construction employment has been consistent over the course of the year but not rapid enough for a full recovery. California, for example, gained 26,300 construction jobs from September to October. Despite that growth, overall construction employment in the Golden State remains 27,600 jobs lower than it was in February, before the coronavirus pandemic caused widespread economic shutdowns.

Overall, 36 states and the District of Columbia added new construction jobs from September to October. Association officials are concerned that even these incremental increases may soon be slowed or halted entirely as the spread of COVID-19 worsens across the U.S. heading into the new year.

“With the pandemic raging again in most parts of the country, countless construction jobs are at risk as owners cancel or delay construction projects amid uncertainty about the future,” said Stephen Sandherr, CEO of the AGC.

In a recent statement, Sandherr voiced the AGC’s intent to work with the federal government and the incoming presidential administration on new economic recovery measures that would help rebuild infrastructure and further revive the economy.

“Enacting needed new recovery measures now will help protect many good-paying construction careers during what will likely be a difficult winter for the economy,” said Sandherr.