Illinois enjoyed some of the most rapid construction employment gains in the nation in April, but lags behind other states for overall employment recovery since the COVID-19 pandemic started.
The state gained 2,700 jobs, or 1.2% in April, ranking seventh in the nation. However, overall, Illinois has lost 3,200 jobs or 1.4% of its construction work force between February, 2020 and April 2022, ranking 38th nationally.
Illinois construction employment exceeded pre-pandemic levels in 32 states in April, according to a new of federal employment data released by the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America. Association officials cautioned however that record high job opening levels in the construction sector indicate that many firms are having a hard time finding workers to hire, putting future job gains at risk.
“Construction employment gains have stalled in many states in recent months as the pool of available workers has dried up,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “It will be hard to satisfy demand for private projects and infrastructure unless more workers are available to fill the record number of openings.”
Simonson noted that government data from the monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey show that there were 415,000 job openings in the construction at the end of March. That was the highest March total since the series began in 2001 and constituted a 20 percent jump in openings from one year earlier. Openings exceeded the 388,000 employees hired during that month, implying that construction firms would have added twice as many employees if they had been available, the economist asserted.
From February 2020—the month before the pandemic caused projects to be halted or canceled—to April 2022, construction employment increased in 32, states, declined in 17 states and the District of Columbia, and was unchanged in Alaska. Utah added the most construction jobs since February 2020 (16,300 jobs, 14.3 percent), followed by Florida (15,500 jobs, 2.7 percent) and Tennessee (13,200 jobs, 10.0 percent). Utah had the largest percentage gain, followed by Montana (13.3 percent, 4,100 jobs) and South Dakota (12.5 percent, 3,000 jobs).
New York shed the most construction jobs over 26 months (-27,700 jobs, -6.8 percent), followed by Pennsylvania (-15,600 jobs, -5.8 percent) and Texas (-10,800 jobs, -1.4 percent). The largest percentage losses were in New York, Kentucky (-6.2 percent, -5,000 jobs), and Pennsylvania.
In April, 27 states and D.C. added construction jobs, 21 states lost jobs, and there was no change in Alaska and Rhode Island. Florida added the most construction jobs (4,300 jobs, 0.7 percent), followed by Texas (3,600 jobs, 0.5 percent) and Ohio (3,300 jobs, 1.4 percent). Delaware had the largest percentage gain (2.1 percent, 500 jobs), followed by South Dakota (1.5 percent, 400 jobs), Ohio and Montana (1.4 percent, 500 jobs).
California lost the most construction jobs last month (-13,200 jobs, -1.4 percent), followed by North Carolina (-5,900 jobs, -2.4 percent) and New Jersey (-2,600 jobs, -1.6 percent). Arkansas had the largest percentage loss (-2.7 percent, -1,500 jobs), followed by North Carolina and Kentucky (-2.1 percent, -1,600 jobs).
Association officials urged public officials to boost investments in career and technical education to help entice more people to pursue high-paying careers in construction. They noted that the federal government invests only a fraction of what it spends on “traditional” college preparation on programs focusing on careers like construction. “We need to let more young people know they can earn a good living and a lot of satisfaction by working in construction careers,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer.