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Most U.S. metro areas see gains in construction jobs

Two-thirds of U.S. cities saw growth, according to the Associated General Contractors

A new building industry report found that the number of construction jobs rose in 66% of U.S. metropolitan areas for the year that ended Nov. 30, a sign that the economic recovery is spreading to that once hard-hit sector.

The Associated General Contractors of America, the construction industry's largest trade group, said in its report released Tuesday that demand was so strong that some regions had begun to experience labor shortages.

"It is good news that construction employment is now rising in two-thirds of the nation's metro areas," said Ken Simonson, the group's chief economist. "But now that the unemployment rate for construction workers has fallen to a seven-year low, it has become a major challenge to find qualified workers in many fields."

The report found that employment in the industry grew in 224 of 339 metro areas.

The largest gains, by numbers, came in the Houston area, which added 16,200 construction jobs, an increase of 9% over the previous 12-month period.

That was followed by Dallas-Irving-Plano, Texas, with 11,000 more jobs, a 10% rise, greater Chicago, which added 9,100 jobs, or 7%, and Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Wash., with 8,900 jobs, or 12%.

From a statewide perspective, California added 41,700 construction jobs, a 6% rise, to a total of 697,000, the group said.

The  fastest growth came from the Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine area, which added 7,700 construction jobs, a 10% rise, and the Los Angeles-Long-Beach area, which added 6,100 jobs, up 5%.

The mostly positive news in the sector was tempered by the fact that some of the fastest growth during the year came in regions that are heavily dependent on the oil and gas business and thus vulnerable to the recent plunge in oil prices.

Besides the Texas metro areas, some of the fastest growth in construction jobs, relative to the size of the market, came from such oil-dependent regions as Pascagoula, Miss. (24% with 1,500 more jobs); Fargo, N.D. (19%, 1,600 jobs); and York-Hanover, Pa. (18%, 1,700 jobs).

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