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Survey: Louisiana leads in construction job growth

Autumn C. Giusti
Dolan Media Newswires

New Orleans — Louisiana had the most gains in statewide construction jobs in July compared with the same period last year, according to a report by the Associated General Contractors of America.

The state increased its employment numbers by 3 percent. Louisiana added 4,200 jobs in the past year, up from 135,700 jobs in July 2008 to 139,900 this year.

Mississippi and North Dakota were the only other states with increases.

Jobs grew 3 percent in North Dakota, from 24,300 to 25,100, and 1 percent in Mississippi, from 60,500 to 61,200.

Baton Rouge, La., had the fourth-highest construction job growth among other U.S. metro areas for July. The city’s jobs grew 6 percent, making it one of 11 metro areas with an increase in construction jobs for the month.

Construction workers in communities nationwide continued to suffer extreme job losses in July, according to the AGC analysis, which is based on the latest figures from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The analysis found construction employment declined in 319 of the nation’s largest communities, while six had no change in construction employment between July 2008 and the same time this year.

“These figures make it clear that construction workers in nearly every community nationwide are out of work and short on prospects,” said Ken Simonson, chief economist for the national AGC.

“It’s going to take a lot of new construction activity to turn things around for idle construction workers in cities and towns nationwide.”

Only two communities had double-digit job gains.

Columbus, Ind., again led the nation in construction job growth with a 14 percent increase. Weirton, W.Va.-Steubenville, Ohio, had a 13 percent boost to its employment figures.

Simonson said each of the six hardest hit metropolitan areas in July lost at least 30 percent of their construction jobs.

The worst hit, Reno-Sparks, Nev., had a 33 percent decrease in construction employment.

The Wenatchee, Wash., area (32 percent), Duluth, Minn., area (32 percent), Tucson, Ariz., area (32 percent), Leominster-Fitchburg, Mass., area (30 percent), and Redding, Calif., area (30 percent) were close behind.

“It is difficult to understand why more communities aren’t moving to put their stimulus funds to work while they are experiencing these kinds of job losses,” said Stephen Sandherr, the association’s CEO.

“Coping with the red tape required by the stimulus ought to be worth it to help put neighbors and friends back to work.”

Sandherr said new employment figures underscore the need for cities and towns to move more quickly to allocate their portion of the estimated $135 billion in stimulus-paid construction programs.

He said that while contractors report state agencies are moving quickly to distribute stimulus-transportation dollars, many municipalities are moving slowly to distribute their stimulus construction money

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