Chicago construction employment declines 3% in year because of COVID-19

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The Chicago area has seen a 3 per cent decline in construction employment in the year ended in November — reflecting the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on the industry. Other areas of the state fared better or worse, depending on local conditions, according to US Labor Department data compiled and analyzed by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC).

Statewide, construction employment declined by 4,800 or 2% to 222,600 from 227,400.

Here is a detailed list by market area.The numbers represent employment in November 2019, 2020, the actual gain/loss, the percentage change, and the national ranking.

  • Statewide Construction 227,400 222,600 -4,800 -2%
  • Statewide Mining, Logging, and Construction 235,700 229,600 -6,100 -3%
  • Bloomington Mining, Logging, and Construction 2,800 2,800 0 0% 123
  • Champaign-Urbana Mining, Logging, and Construction 3,800 3,800 0 0% 123
  • Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights Div. Construction 135,000 130,500 -4,500 -3% 186
  • Danville Mining, Logging, and Construction 600 600 0 0% 123
  • Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL Mining, Logging, and Construction 10,300 10,200 -100 -1% 161
  • Decatur Mining, Logging, and Construction 3,100 2,400 -700 -23% 349
  • Elgin Div. Construction 14,600 13,800 -800 -5% 226
  • Kankakee Mining, Logging, and Construction 1,400 1,300 -100 -7% 248
  • Lake County-Kenosha County, IL-WI Div. Construction 15,900 16,100 200 1% 105
  • Peoria Mining, Logging, and Construction 7,600 7,500 -100 -1% 161
  • Rockford Mining, Logging, and Construction 5,900 5,100 -800 -14% 320
  • Springfield Mining, Logging, and Construction 3,300 2,800 -500 -15% 324
  • St. Louis, MO-IL Mining, Logging, and Construction 68,200 68,100 -100 -0.1% 156

Nationally, only 34 percent of the nation’s metro areas—just over one-third—added construction jobs from November 2019 to November 2020, AGCA reported. Association officials said large numbers of contractors are having to lay off workers once they complete projects begun before the pandemic because private owners and public agencies are hesitant to commit to new construction.

“Canceled and postponed projects appear to be more common than new starts for far too many contractors,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Our association’s 2021 Construction Hiring and Business Outlook Survey found three times more contractors have experienced postponements and cancellations than new or expanded projects.”

Construction employment fell in 203, or 57 percent, of 358 metro areas between November 2019 and November 2020. Construction employment was stagnant in 33 additional metro areas, while only 122 metro areas—34 percent—added construction jobs during the past year.

Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas lost the most construction jobs over that span (-22,500 jobs, -9 percent), followed by New York City (-16,700 jobs, -11 percent); Midland, Texas (-9,800 jobs, -25 percent); Montgomery-Bucks-Chester counties, Pa. (-8,800 jobs, -16 percent); and Oakland-Hayward-Berkeley, Calif. (-8,400 jobs, -11 percent). Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton, Mass. had the largest percentage decline (-40 percent, -2,200 jobs), followed by Altoona, Pa. (-35 percent, -1,100 jobs); Bloomsburg-Berwick, Pa. (-31 percent, -400 jobs); Johnstown, Pa. (-31 percent, -800 jobs); and East Stroudsburg, Pa. (-30 percent, -600 jobs).

Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Ariz. added the most construction jobs over the year (4,700 jobs, 3 percent), followed by Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, Md. (4,500 jobs, 5 percent); Boise, Idaho (4,300 jobs, 16 percent); Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas (3,700 jobs, 2 percent); and Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Wash. (3,600 jobs, 3 percent). Walla Walla, Wash. had the highest percentage increase (17 percent, 200 jobs), followed by Boise; Oshkosh-Neenah, Wisc. (16 percent, 900 jobs); and Springfield, Mo. (16 percent, 1,500 jobs).

Association officials said many metro areas were likely to lose more construction jobs amid declining demand and continued project cancellations and delays. They added that a clearer picture of what is in store for the industry will emerge on Thursday, January 7, when the association releases the 2021 Construction Hiring and Business Outlook it prepared with Sage.

“Construction employment is likely to fall further in many parts of the country as the coronavirus continues to weigh on demand for nonresidential projects,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Unless market conditions change rapidly, this year is likely to prove very challenging for many construction employers.”

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