Illinois construction employment continues to rebound well from COVID-19 pandemic

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Ragnar Benson workers on a Chicago Transit Authority project (Ragnar Benson website)

Construction employment in Illinois continues to rebound well and the state overall ranks highly nationally in how it has performed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While many states reported often shocking job losses, Illinois has seen a slight increase in construction employment — 800 workers — between February 2020 and September, 2021.  And much of that increase was in the past month, with 2,500 additional workers.

Overall, according to US Labor Department data compiled by the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America some 228,900 were employed in the industry in September. The state ranks 12th in the nation for construction employment growth.

“Construction employment remains below pre-pandemic levels in more than two-thirds of the states,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Supply problems have slowed down many projects and forced contractors to hold down employment, while the lack of an infrastructure bill is leading some to delay hiring.”

From February 2020—the month before the pandemic caused project shutdowns and cancellations—to last month, construction employment increased in only 14 states and D.C., decreased in 35 states, and stalled in Connecticut. Texas shed the most construction jobs over the period (-48,000 jobs or -6.1 percent), followed by New York (-47,300 jobs, -11.6 percent) and California (-32,600 jobs, -3.6%). The largest percentage losses were in Louisiana (-16.1 percent, -22,000 jobs), Wyoming (-15.7 percent, -3,600 jobs) and New York.

Utah added the most construction jobs since February 2020 (9,400 jobs, 8.2 percent), followed by Washington (6,300 jobs, 2.8 percent), North Carolina (5,300 jobs, 2.2 percent), and Idaho (5,100 jobs, 9.3 percent). The largest percentage gains were in Idaho, Utah, and South Dakota (7.9 percent, 1,900 jobs).

From August to September construction employment decreased in 16 states, increased in 32 states and D.C., and was unchanged in Iowa and Kansas. The largest decline over the month occurred in Tennessee, which lost 2,800 construction jobs or 2.1 percent, followed by Missouri (-1,600 jobs, -1.3 percent). The largest percentage decline was in Alaska (-800 jobs, -4.9 percent), followed by Tennessee and Montana (-400 jobs, -1.4 percent).

Texas added the most construction jobs between August and September (8,900 jobs, 1.2 percent), followed by Florida (6,900 jobs, 1.2 percent) and Washington (3,600 jobs, 1.6 percent). Connecticut had the largest percentage gain (3.0 percent, 1,700 jobs), followed by Delaware (2.9 percent, 700 jobs) and West Virginia (2.3 percent, 700 jobs).

Association officials continued to urge the Biden administration to remove tariffs on a host of key construction materials, including steel and aluminum, and to do more to relieve shipping bottlenecks that are crippling many parts of the distribution network. They also urged House officials to quickly pass a Senate-backed infrastructure bill to increase investments in the nation’s transportation and water systems.

“The latest state employment figures show that gridlock in our ports and on Capitol Hill is retarding construction employment as well as the broader economy,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Even as the administration looks for ways to unclog domestic supply chains, the President should urge the House to pass the infrastructure bill, on its own, as quickly as possible.”

View state February 2020-September 2021 data and rankings, 1-month rankings.

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