Statewide Florida construction employment flat during pandemic, but there are great regional variations

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Florida communities have reported widely diverging changes in construction employment from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 until July this year. Overall employment levels were flat — but the actual story on the ground varies dramatically depending on where you are.

For example, the Miami area lost 4,900 construction jobs (a 9% decline), while the much smaller market area of Port St. Lucie gained 1,400 jobs (11% increase). Employment grew 6% in Jacksonville, while it declined by 2% in the Orlando area.

Here is the data by metro area, compiled by the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America from government data. The numbers indicate employment levels in February, 2020, July 2021, the actual change, and the percentage difference.

  • Statewide Construction 574,500 574,600 100 0%
  • Statewide Mining, Logging, and Construction 580,000 580,200 200 0%
  • Cape Coral-Fort Myers Mining, Logging, and Construction 33,100 35,500 2,400 7% 172
    Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin Mining, Logging, and Construction 7,100 7,100 0 0% 272
  • Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach Mining, Logging, and Construction 14,200 15,000 800 6% 86
  • Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach-Deerfield Beach Div.Construction 50,300 50,900 600 1% 259
  • Gainesville Mining, Logging, and Construction 6,100 6,500 400 7% 172
  • Jacksonville Construction 46,300 49,100 2,800 6% 186
  • Lakeland-Winter Haven Mining, Logging, and Construction 14,900 15,600 700 5% 207
  • Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall Div. Construction 54,400 49,500 -4,900 -9% 332
  • Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island Mining, Logging, and Construction 17,400 18,300 900 5% 207
  • North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton Mining, Logging, and Construction 26,700 27,600 900 3% 241
  • Ocala Mining, Logging, and Construction 8,700 8,900 200 2% 247
  • Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford Construction 86,600 84,900 -1,700 -2% 297
  • Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville Mining, Logging, and Construction 15,700 17,000 1,300 8% 162
  • Panama City Mining, Logging, and Construction 7,100 7,500 400 6% 186
  • Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent Mining, Logging, and Construction 12,100 12,800 700 6% 186
  • Port St. Lucie Mining, Logging, and Construction 12,400 13,800 1,400 11% 129
  • Punta Gorda Mining, Logging, and Construction 4,400 4,600 200 5% 207
  • Sebastian-Vero Beach Mining, Logging, and Construction 4,500 4,900 400 9% 149
  • Tallahassee Mining, Logging, and Construction 8,500 8,600 100 1% 259
  • Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater Construction 84,700 87,900 3,200 4% 224
  • West Palm Beach-Boca Raton-Delray Beach Div. Construction 37,900 38,400 500 1% 259

Nationally, the AGC reports that three-fourths of all metro areas added construction jobs between July 2020 and last month. Association officials noted that while many metro areas have added jobs since last summer, construction employment still lags pre-pandemic levels in many areas as the industry faces a host of challenges.

“The rapid spread of the delta variant of coronavirus, along with soaring materials costs and multiple supply-chain difficulties, appears to be causing some project owners to delay starting construction,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “However, the virus flare-up threatens further job gains, particularly because construction workers have a lower vaccination rate and thus a higher risk of becoming ill than other occupations.”

Construction employment increased in 268 out of 358 metro areas over the last 12 months. Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Wash. added the most construction jobs (10,200 jobs, 10 percent), followed by Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade, Calif. (9,100 jobs, 13 percent); Pittsburgh, Pa. (8,300 jobs, 14 percent); and Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights, Ill (7,700 jobs, 6 percent). Waterbury, Conn. had the highest percentage increase (29 percent, 800 jobs), followed by Lawrence-Methuen Town-Salem, Mass. (26 percent, 900 jobs); Hanford-Corcoran, Calif. (22 percent, 200 jobs); and Bloomington, Ill. (21 percent, 600 jobs).

Construction employment declined from a year earlier in 54 metros and held steady in 36. Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas lost the most jobs: 7,000 or 3 percent, followed by New York City (-6,300 jobs, -4 percent); Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall, Fla. (-3,500 jobs, -7 percent); Nassau County-Suffolk County, N.Y. (-2,400 jobs, -3 percent) and Calvert-Charles-Prince George’s, Md. (-2,400 jobs, -7 percent). The largest percentage declines, 11 percent, were in Atlantic City-Hammonton, N.J. (-600 jobs) and Evansville, Ind.-Ky. (-1,100 jobs), followed by 9 percent decreases in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (-600 jobs) and Victoria, Texas (-300 jobs).

Association officials urged federal officials to take steps to address supply-chain woes and boost demand for many types of construction services. They continued to call for the removal of tariffs on a host of critical construction materials, including steel and aluminum. And they urged the House of Representatives to quickly pass bipartisan infrastructure legislation that would give a needed boost to construction demand at a time when many private sector owners are rethinking projects amid rising prices and the spiking coronavirus cases.

“Washington officials have the ability to help offset soaring materials prices and boost flagging demand for commercial construction,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “The president should put an immediate end to tariffs that are needlessly inflating the cost of key materials and members of the House should rapidly approve the bipartisan infrastructure bill.”

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