Don’t forget how good February’s continued construction jobs growth is

By Larry StewartMarch 29, 2023

Photo: Adobe Stock Images

The economic upside-down we live in can bring a shudder out of strong employment numbers like February’s, as they attract the shadow of another Federal Reserve interest-rate hike. But replace the policy perspective with a historical on, and 24 states adding construction jobs from January to February is bulwark against recession.

Why construction jobs matter

Over the last 11 recessions going back seven decades, growth in construction jobs changed to loss of construction jobs an average of one month into the recession, according to People fear weakening construction employment because, on average, construction job losses lead a recession’s overall job losses by nearly half a year.

So despite how the Fed and Wall Street might react, February construction employment showing 12-month increases in 45 states, while 24 states added construction jobs from January to February is a good thing, not only because it shows robust demand for construction but also because it reduces the chances of near-term downturn.

The Associated General Contractors of America’s analysis of federal employment data suggests February could have been better.

“Unfavorable weather may have held back construction in many states last month compared to January,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “But construction employment continued to expand almost everywhere in February compared to a year ago, despite a slump in homebuilding.”

In February 24 states showed growth in construction employment, 21 states showed erosion and employment was static in six states (Department of Commerce employment stats include the 50 states and Washington D.C.). Rising states added a total of 25,200 employees, while falling states lost 13,600.

February’s gains follow January’s record construction-industry employment of 7,884,000, seasonally adjusted. That 3.9% increase from a year earlier topped the 3.3% rise in total nonfarm employment.

Biggest 12-month changes

Between February 2022 and 2023, 45 states added construction jobs, while industry employment declined in five states and the District of Columbia. Texas added the most jobs over the year (37,900 jobs, or 5.0%), followed by:

  • New York (20,400 jobs, 5.3%)
  • Florida (19,700 jobs, 3.3%)
  • Nevada (12,100 jobs, 11.8%)
  • Georgia (11,700 jobs, 5.5%)

Rhode Island had the largest percentage increase (12.4%, or 2,600 jobs), followed by:

  • Nevada (11.8%, 12,100 jobs)
  • Montana (9.3%, 3,300 jobs)
  • Nebraska (8.1%, 4,700 jobs)
  • Utah (7.3%, 9,400 jobs)

West Virginia lost the most jobs over 12 months (-2,200 jobs, -6.5%), followed by:

  • Colorado (-1,500 jobs, -0.8%)
  • South Dakota (-1,200 jobs, -4.6%).

The largest percentage losses occurred in West Virginia, South Dakota and D.C. (-3.2%, -500 jobs).

Biggest 1-month changes

For the month, California added the most jobs (7,600 jobs, or 0.8%), followed by:

  • Texas (2,600 jobs, 0.3%)
  • New Jersey (4,000 jobs, 2.5%)
  • Minnesota (2,200 jobs, 1.7%)

The largest percentage gain occurred in Minnesota and Rhode Island (1.7%, 400 jobs), followed by:

  • North Dakota (1.5%, 400 jobs)
  • Mississippi (1.5%, 700 jobs)

Tennessee experienced the largest decline in construction jobs in February (-1,700 jobs, -1.1%), followed by:

  • Iowa (-1,600 jobs, -1.9%)
  • Virginia (-1,200 jobs, -0.6%)

Hawaii had the largest percentage loss for the month (-2.0%, -800 jobs), followed by Iowa and Alaska (-1.8%, -300 jobs).

See AGC’s February 2023 construction employment data by state, 1-mo rankings and 12-mo rankings.

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