Growth in Florida construction employment: Thousands of jobs added in 2019

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Construction spending rose 4.1 percent from November 2018 to November 2019, while industry employment grew in 226, or 63 percent, out of 358 metro areas, according to a new analysis of federal data recently released by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGCA). Association officials noted that its recent survey found most contractors are optimistic about the dollar value of projects available and expect to keep adding workers in 2020 but they are finding it hard to fill positions and anticipate it will continue to be hard to hire employees.

Several Florida markets reported significant growth, with communities in the Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville and Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater areas reporting the highest growth — tying for 11th in the nation.  The Tampa area, for example, gained 8,000 jobs in the year.

Here is data for some Florida communities. (Numbers are employment totals in Nov. 2018, Nov. 2019, the percentage change, the number of employees added (lost) and the national ranking.)

  • Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL Mining, Logging, and Construction 14,500 15,900 10% 1,400 11
  • Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL Construction 77,000 85,000 10% 8,000 11
  • Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL Mining, Logging, and Construction 14,400 15,700 9% 1,300 18
  • Jacksonville, FL Construction 44,100 48,100 9% 4,000 18
  • Panama City, FL Mining, Logging, and Construction 5,400 5,800 7% 400 40
  • Punta Gorda, FL Mining, Logging, and Construction 4,500 4,800 7% 300 40
  • Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, FL Mining, Logging, and Construction 18,300 19,400 6% 1,100 56
  • Ocala, FL Mining, Logging, and Construction 8,100 8,600 6% 500 56
  • Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL Construction 84,700 89,600 6% 4,900 56
  • Port St. Lucie, FL Mining, Logging, and Construction 12,100 12,800 6% 700 56
  • Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL Mining, Logging, and Construction 32,200 33,800 5% 1,600 89
  • North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL Mining, Logging, and Construction 26,000 27,400 5% 1,400 89
  • Sebastian-Vero Beach, FL Mining, Logging, and Construction 4,400 4,600 5% 200 89
  • Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL Mining, Logging, and Construction 14,000 14,600 4% 600 119
  • West Palm Beach-Boca Raton-Delray Beach, FL Div. Construction 38,800 40,400 4% 1,600 119
  • Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin, FL Mining, Logging, and Construction 6,800 7,000 3% 200 155
  • Gainesville, FL Mining, Logging, and Construction 5,900 6,100 3% 200 155
  • Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall, FL Div. Construction 54,000 55,700 3% 1,700 155
  • Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent, FL Mining, Logging, and Construction 11,700 12,100 3% 400 155
  • Tallahassee, FL Mining, Logging, and Construction 8,500 8,700 2% 200 183
  • Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach-Deerfield Beach, FL Div. Construction 48,800 48,900 0.2% 100 226

“Both the actual spending totals for November and our members’ expectations for 2020 point to a continuing uptick in construction employment,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “It’s likely that even more metros would have added workers recently if unemployment weren’t at record lows in many areas.”

Construction spending totalled $1.324 trillion at a seasonally adjusted annual rate in November, up 0.6 percent from October and up 4.1 percent from November 2018, according to estimates the U.S. Census Bureau released today. There were year-over-year increases in all major segments—public, private residential and private nonresidential.

The Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas metro area added the most construction jobs during the past year (15,400 jobs, 10 percent), followed by Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, Nev. (11,000 jobs, 17 percent). Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise had the largest percentage increase, followed by 15-percent gains in Omaha-Council Bluffs, Neb.-Iowa (4,500 jobs), Sioux Falls, S.D. (1,300 jobs) and Auburn-Opelika, Ala. (400 jobs). Construction employment set a new high for November in 71 metro areas and a new November low in six areas.

From November 2018 to November 2019, construction employment fell in 77 metros and was flat in 55. The largest declines occurred in New York City (-6,900 jobs, -4 percent) and Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif. (-4,300 jobs, -4 percent). The largest percentage decreases took place in Danville, Ill. (-17 percent, -100 jobs), Fairbanks, Alaska (-12 percent, -300 jobs) and Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, Conn. (-11 percent, -2,300 jobs).

The new spending and employment data comes as the association’s 2020 Construction Outlook survey found that for each of 13 project types, more contractors expect an increase in 2020 than a decrease in the dollar value of projects they compete for. Three-fourths of the 956 respondents expect to add workers this year, while only 5 percent expect a decrease. However, 65 percent say it will be as hard or harder to hire workers than in 2019, when 81 percent said they had a hard time finding qualified workers to hire.

Association officials added that labor shortages are forcing contractors to boost pay, invest more in training and adopt new labor-saving technologies. But they cautioned that those changes are not enough to allow many contractors to keep pace with growing demand, noting many firms report they have raised bid prices or proposed longer construction schedules because of labor shortages.

“The single greatest threat to continued growth in the construction industry is the shortage of qualified candidates for firms to hire,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “That is why Congress and the Trump administration must act quickly to boost investments in career and technical education and allow more people with construction skills to legally enter the country.”

View the metro employment data, rankings, top 10 and map. View the 2020 Construction Outlook Survey.

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