A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

AGC Data DIGest: September 14-20, 2021

Seasonally adjusted construction employment in August trailed the February 2020 level in 39 states and exceeded it in 11 states and the District of Columbia, according to AGC’s analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data posted on Friday. (February 2020 was the month in which employment peaked nationally before plunging during widespread shutdowns in March and April 2020.) Texas lost the most construction jobs over 18 months (-56,700 jobs or -7.3%), followed by New York (-50,700, -12%) and California (34,900, -3.8%). Wyoming had the largest percentage loss (-17%, -3,800 jobs), followed by Louisiana (-14%, -19,700) and New York. Utah added the most jobs (7,400, 6.5%), followed by North Carolina (4,500, 1.9%), Idaho (3,700, 6.7%), and South Carolina (3,700, 3.5%). South Dakota added the highest percentage (7.1%, 1,700 jobs), followed by Idaho, Utah, Rhode Island (4.9%, 1,000), and South Carolina. For the month, construction employment declined in 22 states, increased in 25 states and D.C., and was flat in Colorado, South Dakota, and Utah. Nevada had the biggest one-month gain (3,000, 3.3%), followed by New York (2,600, 0.7%) and Tennessee (2,600, 2.0%). New Hampshire had the largest monthly percentage increase (4.4%, 1,200 jobs), followed by Nevada, Oklahoma (2.3%, 1,800), and Tennessee. Kansas lost the most construction jobs for the month (-2,400 jobs, -3.7%), followed by Georgia (-2,300, -1.1%) and Alabama (-1,900, -2.1%). Kansas also had the largest one-month percentage loss, followed by 2.1% losses in Alabama and Wyoming (-400 jobs). (BLS reports combined totals for mining, logging, and construction in D.C., Delaware and Hawaii. Because there are few, if any, mining and logging jobs in these locations, AGC treats the levels and changes as solely construction employment.)

Construction starts, not seasonally adjusted, rose 4.5% y/y in August from August 2020, data firm ConstructConnect reported on Thursday. Year-to-date starts for January-August 2021 rose 6.0% from the same months in 2020. Year-to-date nonresidential starts declined 6.4%: nonresidential building starts fell 11%, with nearly equal decreases in commercial, institutional, and industrial [manufacturing] starts, while engineering (civil) starts rose 0.8% (including road/highway, 6.6%; water/sewage, 11%; power and other miscellaneous, 3.6%; bridges, -24%). Residential starts soared 25% year-to-date (single-family, 32%, and apartments, 6.4%).

“Leaders of some of the busiest U.S. ports expect congestion snarling maritime gateways to continue deep into next year,” the Wall Street Journal reported on September 6. “Mario Cordero, executive director at the Port of Long Beach, Calif.,…said. ‘Many people believe it’s going to continue through the summer of 2022.’ Griff Lynch, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority…, said: ‘We think at least midway through 2022 or the entire 2022 could be very strong.’…Hundreds of thousands of containers are stuck aboard container ships waiting for a berth or stacked up at terminals waiting to be moved by truck or rail to inland terminals, warehouses and distribution centers. When the boxes do move, they are often snarled at congested freight rail yards and warehouses that are full to capacity. Bob Biesterfield, chief executive of C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc., the largest freight broker in North America, said shortages of truck drivers and warehouse workers are making shipping delays worse.”

“National asking rents [for apartments] rose 10.3% in August, measured on an annual basis, according to Real Page, a rental-management software company, which analyzed more than 13 million professionally managed apartments,” the Journal reported on Wednesday. “That marked the first double-digit increase in the more than 20 years this data has been collected, and in several hot cities the rent increases were much greater than the national figure….August rents rose more than 20% year over year in [Phoenix, Las Vegas, Tampa,] Boise, Idaho, and Naples, Fla.” These increases are a favorable sign for multifamily construction.

Vaccination rates for construction workers continue to lag other occupations, according to the latest data posted by construction research institute CPWR. Data “used for the dashboard are from the COVID-19 Trends and Impact Survey, a daily online survey distributed to Facebook users by the Delphi Group at Carnegie Mellon University through a collaboration with Facebook.” As of the week of August 29, 57% of construction respondents had been vaccinated, vs. 81% for all other occupations. Among 31 states with sufficient respondents, construction occupation vaccination rates ranged from 43% in Kansas to 77% in New Jersey. Only 16% of other occupations reported being vaccine hesitant, vs. 38% for construction occupations. Of the reasons for hesitancy among construction occupations, 63% said they distrust vaccines, 53% distrust government, and 33% said they considered vaccines ineffective. The comparatively low vaccination rate is likely to make fielding full, healthy workforces even more difficult as more owners bar access to unvaccinated persons and if OSHA requires employers of 100 or more workers to require vaccination, as is expected shortly.

“Cities are taking it slow with American Rescue Plan funds,” Brookings Institution researchers Alan Berube and Eli Byerly-Duke reported on September 7. “ARP provided a large number of cities and counties with direct, flexible support from the federal government. And the sums on offer were substantial: $130 billion in Fiscal Recovery Funds…for cities, counties, and tribes, often amounting to significant shares of local governments’ annual budgets. The Treasury Department began disbursing these dollars in May, requiring larger recipients to submit initial reports by this week on how they are allocating the dollars to address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to ‘build back better’ for the future. [One] takeaway from our preliminary examination of plans that 20 large cities around the country have made available[:] infrastructure (broadband, water, and sewer) has received notably less emphasis in initial plans, probably because cities are anticipating even more significant resources soon on offer from the infrastructure package making its way through Congress.”