Report: Construction spending lowest in 6 years

Construction employment grew in only four out of 337 metropolitan areas in 2009 as spending on construction projects dropped by $100 billion in December to a six-year low of $903 billion, according to federal figures released February 1 by the Associated General Contractors of America.

“The impact of the stimulus is clearly being overshadowed by a sweeping downturn in overall construction demand,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist.  “Without those public investments however, a bad employment situation will only get worse during 2010.”

Census Bureau figures released February 1 show that private non-residential spending dropped 18 percent compared to December 2008.

Simonson said the declines in construction spending were leading to layoffs in most communities.  Leominster-Fitchburg, Mass., lost a larger percentage of its construction work force (38 percent) during 2009 than any other area, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Other areas with sharp declines in construction employment during the year include El Centro, Calif. (36 percent); and Santa Fe, N.M.; Pocatello, Idaho; and Kokomo, Ind. (all 29 percent). The Houston area lost the most construction jobs (25,500) in 2009.

Four metropolitan areas with an increase in construction employment during the past 12 months included  two that gained more than 100 jobs: Harrisburg-Carlisle, Pa. (1,500 jobs, 13 percent gain) and Tulsa, Okla. (700 jobs, 3 percent gain).

Two others gained 100 jobs each in construction: Springfield, Ohio (8 percent) and Columbus, Ind. (5 percent).

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