KELO Radio notes an analysis of government employment data from the Associated General Contractors saying that South Dakota has had the biggest percentage growth in construction jobs since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. From February 2020 to April 2021, South Dakota added 4,000 construction jobs, a 19% increase. The other states posting double-digit growth in construction jobs were Idaho and Montana (13%), Iowa and North Dakota (12%), and Illinois and Rhode Island (10%). Losing the largest percentages of construction jobs since the pandemic started are Louisiana (–14%), Wyoming (–8%), Nevada and New Mexico (–6%), and New York and Texas (5%). Seventeen states lost construction jobs; 32 plus D.C. gained; Vermont saw no change.
Sioux Falls and Rapid City expanded construction jobs by 12% and 11%, respectively, but that only made them 32nd and 40th in the nation for metro contruction job performance. Among neighboring states’ metros, Fargo-Moorhead ranked second with 34% growth in construction jobs. Davenport-Moline-Rock Island and Bismarck tied for tenth at 18%. St. Cloud ranked 16th at 16%. Des Moines ranked 25th at 14%. Seven of the ten biggest loser towns were in Texas.
Factoring in Friday’s labor report, ACG finds construction jobs nationwide remain 3% below pre-pandemic. Residential construction is up 35,000 jobs (+1.2%) since pre-pandemic but non-residential construction is down 260,000 jobs (–5.6%). The contractors are complaining about workers’ staying home to take care of kids and collect big unemployment checks, but ACG says the biggest drag on their hiring is the supply of materials:
“Steadily worsening production and delivery delays have exceeded even the record cost increases for numerous materials as the biggest headache for many nonresidential contractors,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “If they can’t get the materials, they can’t put employees to work.”
…“Contractors are being told they must wait nearly a year to receive shipments of steel and 4-6 months for roofing materials,” Simonson noted. “These delays make it impossible to start some projects and to complete others, leaving contractors unable to keep workers employed. In addition, soaring prices for steel, lumber, and other materials are deterring owners from committing to going ahead with projects” [Associated General Contractors of America, press release, 2021.06.04].
It sounds like President Biden will need to expand the supply chain analysis he ordered in February to include construction materials so that when Congress approves a big infrastructure plan, contractors can get the materials they need to build our next century of roads and bridges and water pipes.