Chicagoland, Illinois construction employment increases during pandemic: AGC

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Chicagoland, and Illinois overall, has fared better than most of the nation, at least in construction employment, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

US Labor Department data compiled by the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America indicate that the Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights market area gained 19,100 construction jobs between February 2020 and July 2021, an increase to 138,500 from 119,000, ranking the area 86th nationally.

Some smaller Illinois markets did even better percentage-wise. Bloomington ranked seventh in the nation with a 35% jobs increase (although this represented only 400 construction, mining and logging jobs). Kankakee employment grew by the same number, representing a 36% increase, or the sixth highest percentage growth nationally.

Here is the data by metro area. The numbers indicate employment levels in February, 2020, July 2021, the actual change, and the percentage difference.

  • Statewide Construction 202,000 247,000 45,000 22%
  • Statewide Mining, Logging, and Construction 209,200 253,700 44,500 21%
  • Bloomington Mining, Logging, and Construction 2,600 3,500 900 35% 7
  • Champaign-Urbana Mining, Logging, and Construction 3,400 4,200 800 24% 33
  • Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights Div. Construction 119,400 138,500 19,100 16% 86
  • Danville Mining, Logging, and Construction 500 600 100 20% 54
  • Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL Mining, Logging, and Construction 8,500 10,800 2,300 27% 24
  • Decatur Mining, Logging, and Construction 2,800 3,200 400 14% 100
  • Elgin Div. Construction 12,000 14,400 2,400 20% 54
  • Kankakee, IL Mining, Logging, and Construction 1,100 1,500 400 36% 6
  • Lake County-Kenosha County, IL-WI Div. Construction 13,400 15,500 2,100 16% 86
  • Peoria Mining, Logging, and Construction 6,900 8,500 1,600 23% 37
  • Rockford Mining, Logging, and Construction 4,700 5,900 1,200 26% 28
  • Springfield Mining, Logging, and Construction 3,100 3,900 800 26% 28
  • St. Louis, MO-IL Mining, Logging, and Construction 64,200 73,100 8,900 14% 100

Nationally, the AGC reports that three-fourths of all metro areas added construction jobs between July 2020 and last month. Association officials noted that while many metro areas have added jobs since last summer, construction employment still lags pre-pandemic levels in many areas as the industry faces a host of challenges.

“The rapid spread of the delta variant of coronavirus, along with soaring materials costs and multiple supply-chain difficulties, appears to be causing some project owners to delay starting construction,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “However, the virus flare-up threatens further job gains, particularly because construction workers have a lower vaccination rate and thus a higher risk of becoming ill than other occupations.”

Construction employment increased in 268 out of 358 metro areas over the last 12 months. Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Wash. added the most construction jobs (10,200 jobs, 10 percent), followed by Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade, Calif. (9,100 jobs, 13 percent); and Pittsburgh, Pa. (8,300 jobs, 14 percent). Waterbury, Conn. had the highest percentage increase (29 percent, 800 jobs), followed by Lawrence-Methuen Town-Salem, Mass. (26 percent, 900 jobs); Hanford-Corcoran, Calif. (22 percent, 200 jobs); and Bloomington, Ill. (21 percent, 600 jobs).

Construction employment declined from a year earlier in 54 metros and held steady in 36. Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas lost the most jobs: 7,000 or 3 percent, followed by New York City (-6,300 jobs, -4 percent); Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall, Fla. (-3,500 jobs, -7 percent); Nassau County-Suffolk County, N.Y. (-2,400 jobs, -3 percent) and Calvert-Charles-Prince George’s, Md. (-2,400 jobs, -7 percent). The largest percentage declines, 11 percent, were in Atlantic City-Hammonton, N.J. (-600 jobs) and Evansville, Ind.-Ky. (-1,100 jobs), followed by 9 percent decreases in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (-600 jobs) and Victoria, Texas (-300 jobs).

Association officials urged federal officials to take steps to address supply-chain woes and boost demand for many types of construction services. They continued to call for the removal of tariffs on a host of critical construction materials, including steel and aluminum. And they urged the House of Representatives to quickly pass bipartisan infrastructure legislation that would give a needed boost to construction demand at a time when many private sector owners are rethinking projects amid rising prices and the spiking coronavirus cases.

“Washington officials have the ability to help offset soaring materials prices and boost flagging demand for commercial construction,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “The president should put an immediate end to tariffs that are needlessly inflating the cost of key materials and members of the House should rapidly approve the bipartisan infrastructure bill.”

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