Chicago construction workforce declines 9 percent during COVID-19 recession

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Chicagoland has experienced some of the nation’s most devastating construction job losses because of COVID-19.

The Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights area lost 10,400 jobs (9 percent) in the past year, with a 304th place ranking in the nation, representing some of the greatest job losses, according to US Labor Department data analyzed by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGCA).

Overall construction employment in the Chicago area region declined from 119,900 in January, 2020 to 109,500 this January.

Some declines were common to nearly two-thirds of the nation’s metro areas, according to government employment data, as project cancellations and a lack of new orders have forced firms to reduce their headcount, the AGC’s latest contractor shows. Association officials said more layoffs are likely for the industry amid spiking materials prices and uncertain demand for new projects.

Data for Illinois communities is listed below, with numbers representing employment levels in January 2020, 2021, the actual jobs decrease (increase), percentage change, and national rank.

  • Illinois Statewide Construction 204,000 192,300 -11,700 -6%
  • Statewide Mining, Logging, and Construction 211,300 198,700 -12,600 -6%
  • Bloomington Mining, Logging, and Construction 2,600 2,600 0 0% 93
  • Champaign-Urbana Mining, Logging, and Construction 3,300 3,400 100 3% 53
  • Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights Div. Construction 119,900 109,500 -10,400 -9% 304
  • Danville Mining, Logging, and Construction 500 500 0 0% 93
  • Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL Mining, Logging, and Construction 8,700 8,700 0 0% 93
  • Decatur Mining, Logging, and Construction 2,800 2,700 -100 -4% 211
  • Elgin Div. Construction 11,900 11,500 -400 -3% 177
  • Kankakee Mining, Logging, and Construction 1,200 1,100 -100 -8% 290
  • Lake County-Kenosha County, IL-WI Div. Construction 13,600 12,700 -900 -7% 273
  • Peoria Mining, Logging, and Construction 7,100 6,700 -400 -6% 257
  • Rockford Mining, Logging, and Construction 5,000 4,400 -600 -12% 328
  • Springfield Mining, Logging, and Construction 3,200 3,000 -200 -6% 257
  • St. Louis, MO-IL Mining, Logging, and Construction 65,100 63,800 -1,300 -2% 155

“More contractors are telling us they are cutting headcount than adding workers, which is consistent with the new data showing the industry is shrinking in many parts of the country,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “More than three-fourth of the firms said projects had been postponed or canceled, while only one out of five reported winning new work or an add-on to an existing project in the previous two months as a result of the pandemic. That imbalance makes further job losses likely in many metros.”

Construction employment fell in 225, or 63 percent, of 358 metro areas between January 2020 and January 2021. Industry employment was stagnant in 41 additional metro areas, while only 92 metro areas—26 percent—added construction jobs.

Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas lost the largest number of construction jobs over the 12-month period (-32,900 jobs, -14 percent), followed by New York City (-23,000 jobs, -15 percent); Midland, Texas (-11,100 jobs, -29 percent); and Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights, Ill. (-10,400 jobs, -9 percent). Lake Charles, La. had the largest percentage decline (-40 percent, -8,100 jobs), followed by Odessa, Texas (-37 percent, -7,600 jobs); Midland; and Laredo, Texas (-27 percent, -1,100 jobs).

Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade, Calif. added the most construction jobs over 12 months (3,500 jobs, 5 percent), followed by Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, Ind. (3,100 jobs, 6 percent); Boise, Idaho (2,500 jobs, 9 percent); and Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Wash. (2,100 jobs, 2 percent). Sierra Vista-Douglas, Ariz. had the highest percentage increase (42 percent, 1,000 jobs), followed by Bay City, Mich. (18 percent, 200 jobs); and Auburn-Opelika, Ala. (15 percent, 400 jobs).

Association officials are urging Congress and the Biden administration to work together to address rising materials prices, supply chain backups and invest in infrastructure. They are asking the administration to end tariffs on key construction materials, including steel and lumber, work with shippers to get deliveries back on track and pass the significant new infrastructure investments the president has promised.

“The construction industry won’t be able to fully recover and start adding jobs in significant numbers as long as materials prices continue to spike, deliveries remain unreliable and demand remains uncertain,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Federal officials can’t fix every problem, but they can help by removing tariffs, helping hard-hit shippers and boosting investments in the nation’s infrastructure.”

View the metro employment 12-month , , , . View AGC’s .

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