California construction employment nearly flat in 2021, but there were significant local variations

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Statewide construction employment levels were close to flat in 2021, but significant regional variations make the picture more complicated, according to government employment data gathered by the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America.

Compare San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande where employment increased by 11 percent (or 900 jobs) to Napa where 600 jobs were lost for a 15 per cent decline.

The numbers are less dramatic in the larger metropolitan markets. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale saw a 4 percent improvement, translating to 6,300 jobs. San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco construction employment grew by 5 percent or 1,900 jobs.

Overall, the state gained about 11,000 jobs, representing a 1 percent gain (there are slight differences if you include mining and logging jobs in the total, part of the numbers for smaller market areas.)

Here are details by locality, as reported by the AGC on Feb. 2.

Data includes Dec. 2020, Dec. 2021, 12-month change, 12-month percentage, national rank

  • Statewide Construction 871,500 882,200 10,700 1%
  • Statewide Mining, Logging, and Construction 889,800 900,900 11,100 1%
  • Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine Div. Construction 102,600 102,600 0 0% 232
  • Bakersfield Construction 14,800 15,400 600 4% 130
  • Chico Mining, Logging, and Construction 4,200 4,400 200 5% 105
  • El Centro Mining, Logging, and Construction 1,700 1,700 0 0% 232
  • Fresno Construction 18,900 20,000 1,100 6% 83
  • Hanford-Corcoran Mining, Logging, and Construction 1,000 1,000 0 0% 232
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale Div. Construction 144,800 151,100 6,300 4% 130
  • Madera Mining, Logging, and Construction 2,000 2,100 100 5% 105
  • Merced Mining, Logging, and Construction 2,600 2,700 100 4% 130
  • Modesto Mining, Logging, and Construction 9,900 11,000 1,100 11% 18
  • Napa Mining, Logging, and Construction 4,000 3,400 -600 -15% 357
  • Oakland-Hayward-Berkeley Div. Construction 72,500 71,500 -1,000 -1% 287
  • Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura Construction 16,700 16,800 100 1% 212
  • Redding Mining, Logging, and Construction 4,000 4,300 300 8% 41
  • Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario Construction 109,500 106,300 -3,200 -3% 300
  • Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade Construction 73,400 76,700 3,300 4% 130
  • Salinas Construction 6,300 6,800 500 8% 41
  • San Diego-Carlsbad Construction 87,800 86,200 -1,600 -2% 293
  • San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, CA Construction 41,100 43,000 1,900 5% 105
  • San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara Construction 51,200 51,800 600 1% 212
  • San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande Mining, Logging, and Construction 8,200 9,100 900 11% 18
  • San Rafael Div. Construction 7,300 7,800 500 7% 56
  • Santa Cruz-Watsonville Mining, Logging, and Construction 4,500 4,500 0 0% 232
  • Santa Maria-Santa Barbara Construction 8,900 9,300 400 4% 130
  • Santa Rosa Construction 15,900 17,800 1,900 12% 16
  • Stockton-Lodi Construction 12,900 13,500 600 5% 105
  • Vallejo-Fairfield Construction 10,500 11,200 700 7% 56
  • Visalia-Porterville Mining, Logging, and Construction 6,300 6,700 400 6% 83
  • Yuba City Mining, Logging, and Construction 2,600 2,800 200 8% 41

Nationally, construction employment increased in nearly two out of three U.S. metro areas in 2021, the AGC said in a statement, citing new government employment data. Yet association officials noted that labor shortages likely kept many firms from adding even more workers.

“Construction employment topped year-earlier levels in almost two-thirds of metros for the past few months,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “But contractors in many areas say they would have hired even more workers if qualified candidates were available.”

Job openings in construction totaled 273,000 at the end of December, an increase of 62,000 or nearly 30 percent from December 2020, according to the government’s latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. That figure exceeded the 220,000 employees that construction firms were able to hire in December, implying firms would have added over twice as many workers if they had been able to fill all openings, Simonson pointed out.

Construction employment rose in 231 or 65 percent of 358 metro areas in 2021. Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas added the most construction jobs (8,800 jobs, 4 percent), followed by Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights, Ill. (6,500 jobs, 5 percent) and Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif. (6,300 jobs, 4 percent). Sioux Falls, S.D. had the highest percentage gain (24 percent, 2,100 jobs), followed by Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas (18 percent, 3,000 jobs) and Atlantic City-Hammonton, N.J. (18 percent, 900 jobs).

Construction employment declined from a year earlier in 76 metros and was flat in 51. Besides the New York communities, major job losses were reported in Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, Md. (-3,800 jobs, -5 percent). The largest percentage declines were in Evansville, Ind.-Ky. (-18 percent, -1,700 jobs); Napa, Calif. (-15 percent, -600 jobs); Anchorage, Alaska (-14 percent, -1,400 jobs); and Lewiston, Idaho-Wash. (-13 percent, -200 jobs). Seven areas set all-time lows for December, while 57 metros reached new December highs for construction jobs.

Association officials said that the growing number of job openings in the industry was a clear sign that labor shortages are getting worse. They noted that the association’s recently released 2022 Construction Hiring and Business Outlook found that 83 percent of contractors report having a hard time finding qualified workers to hire. They urged Congress and the Biden administration to boost funding for career and technical education to help recruit and prepare more people for high-paying construction careers.

“For every dollar the federal government currently invests in career and technical education, it spends six urging students to attend college and work in an office,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Narrowing that funding gap will help more people understand that there are multiple paths to success.”

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