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Construction employment rises in 10 of 11 Wis. metro areas

Construction employment continued to increase in most metro areas throughout the country June; in Wisconsin, the greatest increase for that month was seen in Eau Claire, according to data released Tuesday by the Associated General Contractors of America.

Construction employment increased in 76 percent of the contry’s 358 metro areas between June 2017 and June 2018, declined in 12 percent and was unchanged in another 12 percent, according to an AGC analysis of federal employment data. Association officials said in a news release that the U.S.’s growing economy and strong demand for construction appears to be offsetting cost increases caused by labor shortages and newly imposed trade tariffs.

Construction employment increased in 10 of Wisconsin’s 11 metro areas. The only place where employment held flat was the Oshkosh-Neenah metro area.

“Increases in construction employment in the past year were widespread and strong, as employment increased in three-fourths of metro areas,” said Ken Simonson, the AGC’s chief economist. “Workers in most metro areas are benefiting as firms keep pace with strong demand for construction services.”

Eau Claire added construction jobs at a faster clip than anywhere else in Wisconsin, according to AGC’s numbers. The Eau Claire area added 600 construction jobs year-over-year in June, showing a 14 percent increase.

The metro area that encompasses Lake County, Illinois and Kenosha County also added 1,300 jobs, growing 8 percent. Green Bay also added 600 jobs, growing 7 percent. Madison added 1,100 constructnion jobs, growing by 6 percent while the Milwaukee metro area grew by 4 percent from last year, adding 1,200 jobs.

More metro areas added construction jobs in the past year than in any 12-month period since February 2015. According to the AGC, 64 metro areas set new construction employment highs for June, including San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California, where the previous high for June was set in 2001, and Midland, Texas, which exceeded its previous June peak by 20 percent. The Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas metro area added the most construction jobs during the past year with 19,300 jobs, or a 9 percent increase.

Association officials said strong economic growth, buoyed in part by lower taxes and regulatory reforms, were helping drive demand for new construction projects in most parts of the country. Economic growth also appears to be offsetting the effects of labor shortages and rising materials prices caused by the country’s new tariffs. But they cautioned that the benefits might not last long if materials costs continue to increase and labor becomes even scarcer.

“Tax and regulatory reform are helping put a lot of people into high-paying construction jobs across the country,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Finding ways to quickly resolve trade disputes and encourage more people to work in construction will help put even more people to work.”

About Nate Beck, nbeck@dailyreporter.com

Nate Beck is The Daily Reporter's construction staff writer. He can be reached at (414) 225-1814 (office) or 414-388-5635 (mobile).

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