U.S. construction employment is stuck at well below pre-recession levels in all but eight of 337 metropolitan areas, according to the Association of General Contractors of America.
The Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale area in Arizona had the steepest decline, losing 93,600 jobs, a 53% drop since December 2006, the Arlington, Va., trade group reported today.
The Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario metropolitan area showed the second worst performance, shedding 73,700 jobs, a 57% plunge since December 2005.
Since December 2006, the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale area lost 56,700 jobs, a 36% decline, while the Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine area lost 38,900, a 37% drop. The San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos area lost 38,400 jobs, a 42% fall since December 2005.
Most of the few areas that had more people working in construction than before the recession were enjoying energy related economic upturns. Bismarck, N.D., posted an 11% increase in jobs since December 2010, while Lawton, Okla., had a 5% rise and Longview, Texas, a 4% increase over the same period, the association said.
The stagnation doesn't need to continue, said Stephen E. Sandherr, the group's chief executive.
"What makes these job losses even more frustrating is the fact that many of them could have been avoided," he said. "Thousands more construction workers would be employed today if Congress wasn't years late in passing measures like the highway and transit bill."
Construction jobs won't return to peak levels or higher until Congress funds large-scale and badly needed infrastructure spending, Sandherr said.