Kentucky bucks national trend, actually gains construction jobs

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Nationwide construction employment in July remained below the levels reached before the pre-pandemic peak in February 2020 in 36 states, according to an by the Associated General Contractors of America of government employment data released Friday.

But Kentucky is bucking some of the trends.

Association officials said construction employment would benefit from new federal infrastructure investments and urged the House to quickly pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

“This data shows that full recovery remains elusive for construction in most states,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “In fact, the fast-spreading COVID-19 delta variant may make it harder to find employees eligible to work on restricted sites and may also depress demand if some owners defer projects.”

From February 2020 — the month before the pandemic caused project shutdowns and cancellations — to last month, construction employment increased in only 14 states and was flat in the District of Columbia.

Just before the start of the pandemic, Kentucky had 81,300 people employed in the construction industry, according to the AGC numbers (construction State Empl 2021_July_Alpha). That dropped to 75,500 in July 2020 climbed back to 80,700 in June 2021 and then reached 81,600, 300 people ahead of the pre-pandemic number, in July.

That .4% increase above the pre-pandemic level ranked the state 13th in the nation in terms of job gains.

The 1.1% gain from June to July ranked 10th in the nation.

Nationwide between February 2020 and last month, Texas shed the most construction jobs over the period (-56,200 jobs or -7.2 percent), followed by New York (-52,600 jobs, -12.9 percent) and California (-35,100 jobs, -3.8%). Louisiana recorded the largest percentage loss (-15.3 percent, -21,000 jobs), followed by Wyoming (-13.5 percent, -3,100 jobs) and New York.

Of the states that added construction jobs since February 2020, Utah added the most (7,900 jobs, 6.9 percent), followed by North Carolina (5,700, 2.4 percent) and Idaho (4,400 jobs, 8.2 percent). The largest percentage gain was in Idaho, followed by South Dakota (7.5 percent, 1,800 jobs) and Utah.

From June to July construction employment decreased in 18 states, increased in 30, and was unchanged in Kansas, Tennessee, and D.C. The largest decline over the month occurred in Colorado, which lost 1,600 construction jobs or 0.9 percent, followed by a loss of 1,500 jobs each in Oklahoma (-1.9 percent), Texas (-0.2 percent), and Pennsylvania (0.6 percent).

The steepest percentage declines since June occurred in New Hampshire (-2.2 percent, -600 jobs), followed by 1.9 percent losses in Oklahoma and Arkansas (-1,000 jobs).

North Carolina added the most construction jobs between June and July (4,300 jobs, 1.8 percent), followed by New Jersey (4,000 jobs, 2.7 percent) and Illinois (3,700 jobs, 1.7 percent).

The largest percentage gains were in New Jersey and Connecticut (2.7 percent, 1,500 jobs), followed by South Carolina (2.4 percent, 2,600 jobs).

Association officials warned that construction employment was being impacted in many parts of the country because of supply chain challenges and growing market uncertainty caused by the resurgent Delta variant. They said new federal infrastructure investments would provide a needed boost in demand and help put more people to work in construction careers.

“New federal infrastructure investments will help put more people to work in high-paying construction careers,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “The House can help put Americans back to work by immediately approving the infrastructure measure that passed the Senate with broad, bipartisan support.”

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