St. Louis Construction Industry Job Loss Bucks National Trend, AGC Says

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By KERRY SMITH, EDITOR, ST. LOUIS CONSTRUCTION NEWS & REVIEW MAGAZINE

While non-seasonal construction employment increased between November 2017 and November 2018 in 74 percent of the nation’s MSAs, St. Louis experienced the largest job loss – 4,500 jobs or 7 percent – of all 358 U.S. metropolitan statistical areas.

Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America, said Thursday that the year-over-year numbers for St. Louis construction employment represent the largest construction job loss in the U.S. for the time period referenced above.

“I’ve been watching these figures for a long time,” Simonson said. “St. Louis has definitely had a rough time over the last year. The year-over-year change has been negative (for St. Louis) for 12 consecutive months, beginning with December of 2017 – which was 2.1 percent less (construction) employment than in December 2016. The November 2018 number was the worst of any of the previous 12 months.”

Simonson said factors likely contributing to St. Louis’ net decrease in non-seasonal construction employment include a tapering in highway spending in Missouri and general uncertainty with regard to infrastructure spending in Illinois. Aging of the construction workforce in St. Louis is an additional contributing factor, he added.

Tarlton Corporation Senior Vice President John Doerr said Missouri voters’ rejection of Proposition D in November – a measure that would have increased the long-stagnant motor-fuel tax to inject dollars into eroding public infrastructure statewide, may be another relevant factor affecting the latest construction employment statistics.

“The City of St. Louis does have some challenges as far as drawing the level of construction activity compared to other MSAs,” Doerr said. “That being said, however, we’re (Tarlton) doing more work in the City of St. Louis than we have in 20 years.”

Other MSAs with a decrease in construction employment, year over year, from November 2017 to November 2018, include the Baltimore-Columbia-Towson (MD) MSA with a decrease of 3,000 construction jobs (-4 percent) and the Middlesex-Monmouth-Ocean (NJ) MSA with a decrease in construction employment of 2,400 jobs (-6 percent).

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