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AGC's Data DIGest: March 16-20, 2015

Construction employment rises in most states, metros in February; housing starts fall

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Seasonally adjusted construction employment increased in 43 states and the District of Columbia from January 2014 to January 2015 and decreased in seven states, an AGC analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data released on Tuesday showed. Texas again added the most jobs (49,600 jobs, 7.9%), followed by California (37,800 jobs, 5.7%), Florida (31,800 jobs, 8.3%%), Washington (17,300 jobs, 11.1%) and New York (16,400 jobs, 5.0%). North Dakota (13.4%, 4,300 jobs) again added the highest percentage of construction jobs, followed by Idaho (12.7%, 4,400 jobs), Washington and Colorado (9.8%, 13,500 jobs). Mississippi lost the highest percentage and total number of jobs (-6,600 jobs, -12.7%). Other notable losses occurred in Indiana (-1,900 jobs, -1.6%), West Virginia (-700 jobs, -2.1%), Minnesota (-700 jobs, -0.7%) and Maine (-500 jobs, -1.9%). Only North Dakota, Oklahoma and Louisiana have topped pre-recession construction employment peaks. BLS revised some data back to the beginning of the series in 1990 to incorporate new models, methodology and population counts. As a result, more states than initially reported added construction jobs in 2014, and in December Iowa joined Louisiana, North Dakota and Oklahoma in reaching an all-time high for construction employment. All other states remain below pre-recession peaks, by as much as 55% in Nevada and 47% in Arizona. (BLS combines mining and logging with construction in D.C. and six states to avoid disclosing data for industries with few firms.)

Construction employment, not seasonally adjusted, increased from January 2014 to January 2015 in 247 of the 258 metro areas (including divisions of larger metros) for which BLS provides construction employment data, decreased in 56 and was stagnant in 55, according to an AGC analysis of BLS data released today. (BLS combines mining and logging with construction in most metros to avoid disclosing data about industries with few employers.) Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land added the most construction jobs in the past year (14,100 construction jobs, 7%), followed by the Dallas-Plano-Irving division (11,200 combined jobs, 10%), Denver-Aurora-Lakewood (10,300 combined jobs, 12%) and the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett division (10,200 construction jobs, 14%). The largest job losses from were in St. Louis, Mo.-Ill. (-3,900 combined jobs, -7%), followed by Cleveland-Elyria, Ohio (-3,000 combined jobs, -10%), New Orleans-Metairie (-2,200 construction jobs, -7%) and Gulfport-Biloxi-Pascagoula, Miss. (-2,100 combined jobs, -21%), which had the largest percentage decline. The next-steepest percentage declines occurred in Weirton-Steubenville, W.Va.-Ohio (-19%, -400 combined jobs) and Bloomington, Ill. (-17%, -400 combined jobs). BLS revised past data and adopted the 2013 list of boundaries, names and other changes promulgated by the Office of Management and Budget, and reported construction data for 19 more areas. BLS supplied AGC with a list of changes.

Housing starts plummeted 17% at a seasonally adjusted annual rate from January to February and slipped 3.3% compared with January 2014, the Census Bureau reported on Tuesday. Year-to-date starts for the first two months of 2015 combined rose 8.0% from the same period in 2014, not seasonally adjusted. Single-family starts plunged 15% for the month but increased 0.7% year-over-year and 9.5% year-to-date. Multifamily (5 or more unit) starts tumbled 22% for the month and 9.5% from a year ago but increased 6.6% year-to-date. Abnormal winter weather can distort monthly and year-over-year comparisons and even year-to-date totals for the first two months, especially single-family. Building permits, a generally reliable indicator of builders' near-term intentions, increased 3.0% for the month, 7.7% year-over-year and 8.7% year-to-date. Single-family permits fell 6.2% from January but rose 2.8% from February 2014 and 6.8% year-to-date. Multifamily permits soared 20%, 15% and 12%, respectively. Revised 2014 totals showed total starts climbed 8.5% from 2013, with single-family up 4.9% and multifamily up 16%.

The construction industry accounted for 5.2% of all employed persons age 18 or over in 2014, BLS reported on Wednesday in its annual release on "Employment Situation of Veterans." The industry employed a slightly higher share of veterans, 5.6%. Among occupations, workers in construction and extraction occupations constituted 5.8% of employed vets.

Census posted data on Monday on numbers of men and women full-time year-round workers and their median annual earnings in 2013, by sex and detailed occupation. Women accounted for 43% of all full-time year-round workers. Median earnings for women were 79% of the median for men. (Half of all employees in a group earned more than the median amount for that group; half earned less.) Among management occupations, there were 470,000 construction managers, of whom 35,000 (7%) were women; their median earnings were 89% of the median for male construction managers. There were 4,960,000 employees in construction and extraction occupations, of which 119,000 (2.4%) were women; their median earnings were 78% of the male median. The most numerous category of construction employees was laborers (987,000), of which 25,000 (2.6%) were women; their median earnings were 90% of men's. Second-most frequent were brickmasons, blockmasons and stonemasons (678,000), of which 612 (0.8%) were women; followed by electricians (584,000), of which 10,000 (1.7%) were women; their median earnings were 83% of men's.

An estimated 1.1 million households moved in 2014, according to a Census report, "Geographical Mobility: 2013 to 2014," released on Wednesday. That was very close to the annual totals since 2007 but far below the 1.6-1.9 million in most of the 2000-2005 period. The reduced mobility is a major reason demand for residential construction has failed to rebound.

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