The Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia region has bucked the national trend of diminishing construction employment over the last year, according to the Associated General Contractors of America. Construction employment increased in fewer than half of the nation’s metro areas over the last year, the weakest expansion since late 2011.
In the Charlotte metro, however, employment grew 10 percent between July 2014 and July 2015, increasing by 2,300 jobs to 26,300. That placed the area 28th among the 358 metros tracked for growth rate.
According to the AGC, 168 metros, or 47 percent of the total, saw increases in construction jobs. Employment declined in 138 metros and was level in 52. Nationally, construction employment increased by 231,000 jobs, or 3.8 percent, over the past 12 months.
“Although construction employment and spending are still expanding well overall, the gains are increasingly spotty,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist, in a press release. “Uncertainty over funding for transportation infrastructure, a contraction in oil and gas drilling, and turmoil in international markets have left many local construction markets behind even as others grow strongly.”
Congress has been stalled on a long-term plan for funding highways. In August, for the 34th time in six years, it passed a short-term extension of the nation’s transportation program, ensuring only that states will continue to receive federal highway funding through Oct. 29.
The Congressional Budget Office projects that the Federal Highway Trust Account will record a $13 billion deficit in fiscal 2016, which runs from October 2015 through September 2016. The account is financed through fuel-tax collections that have not been sufficient to cover outlays. In the past, the government has transferred money from the general fund to compensate for the shortfall.
Job growth in the construction sector also is hampered by a labor shortage. Many workers left the industry during the recession, and fewer workers are entering the profession due to a decline in career and technical training opportunities.
According to the AGC, Washington’s Seattle-Bellevue-Everett area added the largest number of construction jobs in the past year. The area had 90,300 jobs in July, up 80,000 a year earlier. The highest growth rate, 28 percent, occurred in El Centro, California, which increased to 2,300 jobs from 1,800 a year ago.
The largest job losses were in Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas, at 3,300, or 4 percent of its employee base. The area had 70,500 construction workers in July. The largest rate of decline for the past year was in Gulfport-Biloxi-Pascagoula, Mississippi, which saw a 23 percent drop in jobs to 7,200 in July.