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S.C. still adding construction jobs; industry down from February peak

Staff Report //November 23, 2020//

S.C. still adding construction jobs; industry down from February peak

Staff Report //November 23, 2020//

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South Carolina is one of 13 states to add construction jobs from February 2020, the last month before the COVID-19 pandemic forced many contractors to suspend work, to October 2020, according to an analysis of federal data (.pdf) by the Associated General Contractors of America.

South Carolina added construction 1,400 jobs from February (109,900) to October (111,300) and 1,200 jobs from September (110,100) to October. The Palmetto State also saw a 12-month increase of 2,800 from 108,500 industry jobs in October 2019.

The AGC analysis found that while 36 states and Washington, D.C., added construction jobs in October, seasonally adjusted construction employment in October remained lower than in February in 37 states. New York lost the most construction jobs in the eight-month span, losing 41,600 (minus-10.1%) of jobs, while Texas lost 41,500, or minus-5.2%.

Virginia added a nation-leading 7,100 construction jobs, an increase of 3.5%, followed by Kentucky (4,300 jobs, 5.4%).

“An increasing number of nonresidential contractors are experiencing cancellations that are forcing them to lay off workers,” Ken Simonson, AGC chief economist, said in a news release. “Although single-family homebuilding and remodeling contractors are adding workers, most states are likely to have a net loss of construction workers soon, especially from high-paying, nonresidential jobs.”

Construction employment decreased from September to October in 12 states, with Maryland losing 2,600 jobs, or minus-1.4%, and Georgia losing 1,800, or minus-0.9%.

California led the 36 states adding jobs with 26,300, or 3.1%, with Texas adding 9,400, or 1.3%.

The AGC called for new coronavirus relief measures, including infrastructure investments, liability reforms to protect firms from frivolous lawsuits and an extension of and greater flexibility for federal relief programs such as the Paycheck Protection Programs.

“With the pandemic raging again in most parts of the country, countless construction jobs are at risk as owners cancel or delay construction projects amid uncertainty about the future,” CEO Stephen E. Sandherr said. “Enacting needed new recovery measures now will help protect many good-paying construction careers during what will likely be a difficult winter for the economy.”

An AGC analysis earlier this month found that a nationwide increase of 84,000 jobs in October included additions in both nonresidential and residential construction categories. The association, however, cautioned that its October survey found that three out of four of the more than 1,000 respondents reported the postponement or cancelation of a scheduled project, with 37% expecting their headcount to increase during the next year.

The AGC’s annual Hiring and Business Outlook survey, released last December, found 75% of respondents expected a headcount increase.

Construction employment climbed to 7,345,000 in October, a 1.2% increase from September, but remained down 3.9% percent, of 294,000 jobs, since the industry’s most recent peak in February. Nonresidential construction was 262,000 jobs, or 5.6%, below its February peak. Residential construction was down 32,000 jobs, or 1.1%, since February.

“The employment data for October is good news, but our latest survey found that only a minority of contractors expect to add to their workforce in the next 12 months,” Simonson said. “As project cancellations mount, so too will job losses on the nonresidential side unless the federal government provides funding for infrastructure and relief for contractors.”

Another November analysis by the AGC found that Columbia was one of three S.C. metros areas and 86 nationwide to add jobs in the mining, logging and construction industries from September 2019 to 2020, gaining 100 jobs in that 12-month period. An October analysis found that Columbia added 200 industry jobs from August 2019 to August 2020, while South Carolina gained 500 jobs in that period.