Statewide construction employment steady through Dec. 2020 despite COVID-19, though major regional variations

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Overall, California construction employment has remained stable on a year-to-year basis from December 2019 to December 2020, despite the severe impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy.

However, there were dramatic regional variations, according to government data compiled by the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America.

Significantly, jobs declined 9 percent in the San Francisco market area and 8 percent in Oakland/Haywood/Berkeley, while there was a 19 percent jobs increase in Santa Maria-Santa Barbara.

Here is a detailed list by market area.The numbers represent employment in December 2019, 2020, the actual gain/loss, the percentage change, and the national ranking.

  • Statewide Construction 877,300 879,100 1,800 0.2%
  • Statewide Mining, Logging, and Construction 899,700 900,100 400 0%
  • Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine Div. Construction 106,000 107,900 1,900 2% 101
  • Bakersfield Construction 16,600 16,500 -100 -1% 170
  • Chico, Mining, Logging, and Construction 4,300 4,000 -300 -7% 258
  • El Centro Mining, Logging, and Construction 1,900 1,900 0 0% 135
  • Fresno Construction 19,000 18,600 -400 -2% 183
  • Hanford-Corcoran Mining, Logging, and Construction 1,000 1,000 0 0% 135
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale Div. Construction 151,000 148,100 -2,900 -2% 183
  • Madera Mining, Logging, and Construction 2,000 2,000 0 0% 135
  • Merced Mining, Logging, and Construction 2,600 2,700 100 4% 68
  • Modesto Mining, Logging, and Construction 10,100 10,100 0 0% 135
  • Napa Mining, Logging, and Construction 4,400 4,700 300 7% 31
  • Oakland-Hayward-Berkeley Div. Construction 75,200 69,200 -6,000 -8% 270
  • Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura Construction 17,400 17,400 0 0% 135
  • Redding Mining, Logging, and Construction 3,600 3,600 0 0% 135
  • Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario Construction 104,400 107,100 2,700 3% 81
  • Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade Construction 66,800 68,000 1,200 2% 101
  • Salinas Construction 6,600 6,500 -100 -2% 183
  • San Diego-Carlsbad Construction 84,800 88,000 3,200 4% 68
  • San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco Div.Construction 43,000 39,200 -3,800 -9% 289
  • San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara Construction 51,900 51,100 -800 -2% 183
  • San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande Mining, Logging, and Construction 8,300 7,500 -800 -10% 298
  • San Rafael Div. Construction 7,500 7,400 -100 -1% 170
  • Santa Cruz-Watsonville Mining, Logging, and Construction 4,500 4,600 100 2% 101
  • Santa Maria-Santa Barbara Construction 8,800 9,600 800 9% 19
  • Santa Rosa Construction 17,000 16,500 -500 -3% 198
  • Stockton-Lodi Construction 13,000 12,900 -100 -1% 170
  • Vallejo-Fairfield Construction 12,900 12,800 -100 -1% 170
  • Visalia-Porterville Mining, Logging, and Construction 6,400 6,700 300 5% 55
  • Yuba City Mining, Logging, and Construction 3,100 2,700 -400 -13% 318

Nationally, construction employment fell in 191, or 53 percent, of 358 metro areas in 2020. Construction employment was stagnant in 33 additional metro areas, while only 134 metro areas—37 percent—added construction jobs between December 2019 and December 2020.

Employment decreased from December 2019 to December 2020 in more than half of the nation’s metro areas despite a surge in homebuilding and remodeling, according to an analysis of new government data that the Associated General Contractors of America released on Feb. 3. Association officials said large numbers of contractors are having to lay off workers once they complete projects that began before the pandemic because private owners and public agencies are hesitant to commit to new construction.

“A dearth of new construction work is forcing more and more contractors to lay off employees once they complete projects started before the pandemic hit in early 2020,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Private nonresidential construction spending tumbled 10 percent from December 2019 to December 2020 and public work has been slowing since last March, according to recent Census Bureau data.

Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas lost the largest number of construction jobs in 2020 (-24,500 jobs, -10 percent), followed by New York City (-19,100 jobs, -12 percent); Midland, Texas (-9,200 jobs, -23 percent); Montgomery-Bucks-Chester counties, Pa. (-9,100 jobs, -17 percent); and Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colo. (-6,900 jobs, -6 percent). Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton, Mass. had the largest percentage decline (-40 percent, -2,100 jobs), followed by Altoona, Pa. (-34 percent, -1,000 jobs); Bloomsburg-Berwick, Pa. (-33 percent, -400 jobs); Johnstown, Pa. (-29 percent, -700 jobs); and East Stroudsburg, Pa. (-26 percent, -500 jobs).

Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, Ind. added the most construction jobs over the year (5,600 jobs, 10 percent), followed by Northern Virginia (5,300 jobs, 7 percent); Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Wash. (4,900 jobs, 5 percent); Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, Md. (4,800 jobs, 6 percent); and Kansas City, Mo. (3,300 jobs, 11 percent). Walla Walla, Wash. had the highest percentage increase (17 percent, 200 jobs), followed by Fond du Lac, Wisc. (16 percent, 500 jobs); Springfield, Mo. (15 percent, 1,400 jobs); and Dutchess-Putnam counties, N.Y. (15 percent, 1,300 jobs).

Association officials said job losses are likely to widen as demand for non-residential construction suffers and state and local budget challenges undermine demand for public projects. They urged Washington officials to begin work on recovery measures to fund infrastructure and shore up local construction budgets. They added that the work on these new investments should start even as negotiations on a coronavirus relief package continue.

“Helping people now is important but planning to rebuild our economy is essential to recovering from the economic pain of the pandemic,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “It is not enough to just want a better economy; you have to build it.”

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