Construction employment gains, losses vary greatly by metro area in Illinois: AGC

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Construction employment has boomed in some Illinois communities since the COVID-19 pandemic started two years ago. In others, the story is much different, with serious employment losses, according to government employment data compiled by the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America.

Construction employment grew by 20% in Bloomington, ranking the community fourth in the nation for growth. Decataur ranked fifth with a 17% growth rate. Of course, these markets are not huge — the total number of jobs gained was 1,100.

On the other end of the scale, Danville ranks 357th in the nation with a 17% job loss, though this represented only 100 workers.

The Chicagoland area was more in the middle, gaining 3% or 3,200 jobs, ranking it at 170.

Nationally, construction employment increased in nearly three out of four U.S. metro areas in January compared to a year ago, according to the AGC analysis.

See detailed local breakdowns below. Data includes employment levels in January 2021, January 2022, the numerical change, percentage change, and national ranking. In smaller markets, mining and logging jobs are lumped in with construction.

  • Statewide Construction 195,100 196,100 1,000 1%
  • Statewide Mining, Logging, and Construction 201,300 202,500 1,200 1%
  • Bloomington Mining, Logging, and Construction 2,500 3,000 500 20% 4
  • Champaign-Urbana Mining, Logging, and Construction 3,500 3,400 -100 -3 328
  • Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights Div. Construction 113,300 116,500 3,200 3% 170
  • Danville Mining, Logging, and Construction 600 500 -100 -17% 357
  • Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL Mining, Logging, and Construction 8,500 9,200 700 8% 57
  • Decatur Mining, Logging, and Construction 3,100 3,700 600 19% 5
  • Elgin, IL Div. Construction 11,800 11,800 0 0% 262
  • Kankakee Mining, Logging, and Construction 1,200 1,200 0 0% 262
  • Lake County-Kenosha County, IL-WI Div. Construction 12,800 13,200 400 3% 170
  • Peoria Mining, Logging, and Construction 7,300 7,100 -200 -3% 328
  • Rockford Mining, Logging, and Construction 4,600 5,100 500 11% 24
  • Springfield Mining, Logging, and Construction 3,100 3,200 100 3% 170
  • St. Louis, MO-IL Mining, Logging, and Construction 63,800 67,400 3,600 6% 87

“Construction employment is now increasing in most areas after a rough first year of the pandemic,” said AGC chief economist Ken Simonson. “But contractors recently have had more unfilled positions at the end of each month than they have been able to fill.”

Job openings in construction totaled 384,000 at the end of January, an increase of 81,000 or nearly 27 percent from January 2021, according to the government’s latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. That figure exceeded the 259,000 employees that construction firms were able to hire in January, implying firms would have added over twice as many workers if they had been able to fill all openings, Simonson pointed out.

Construction employment rose in 261 or 73 percent of 358 metro areas in 2021. Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas added the most construction jobs (10,300 jobs, 5 percent), followed by the Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas metro division (7,600 jobs, 5 percent); Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, Ga. (7,100 jobs, 6 percent); and the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif. division (4,700 jobs, 3 percent). Cheyenne, Wyo. had the highest percentage gain (47 percent, 1,400 jobs), followed by Lake Charles, La. (21 percent, 3,100 jobs); Weirton-Steubenville, W. Va.-Ohio (21 percent, 300 jobs); and Bloomington, Ill. (20 percent, 500 jobs).

Construction employment declined from a year earlier in 58 metros and was flat in 39. New York City lost the most jobs (-8,100 or -6 percent), followed by the Oakland-Hayward-Berkeley, Calif. division (-3,400 jobs, -5 percent) and Northern Virginia, Va. (-2,400 jobs, -3 percent). The largest percentage declines were in Sierra Vista-Douglas, Ariz. (-31 percent, -900 jobs); Danville, Ill. (-17 percent, -100 jobs); Tuscaloosa, Ala. (-9 percent, -600 jobs); and San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, Calif. (-9 percent, -900 jobs).

Association officials said firms would have likely added more workers during the past year if they could have found qualified candidates to hire. They urged federal, state and local officials to create more programs to expose learners and adults to construction skills and career opportunities to ensure more workers benefit from increasing federal infrastructure investments.

“Now that Washington is boosting infrastructure funding, public officials should take steps to encourage more people to pursue high-paying careers in construction,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “This industry has the capacity to put many more people into the American middle class.”

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