Chicago construction employment declines 6 percent as COVID-19 takes its toll

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Both the Chicago metropolitan area and Illinois overall as a state reported a six percent decline in construction employment in the year ending August 2020, reflecting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy and the state’s’ construction market.

Data compiled from the US Department of Labor by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGCA) indicates that statewide employment declined by 15,500 jobs. Some 8,000 of the lost jobs were in Chicago/Naperville, resulting in a decline to 133,200 jobs from 141,200 last year.

Here is the data by metropolitan area listed by area, industry, employment numbers for August 2019, numbers for Aug. 2020, the 12-month gain or loss, the percentage change and the area’s ranking nationally.

  • Illinois Statewide Construction 243,700 229,100 -14,600 -6%
  • Statewide Mining, Logging, and Construction 252,000 236,500 -15,500 -6% Bloomington Mining, Logging, and Construction 3,100 2,900 -200 -6% 211
  • Champaign-Urbana Mining, Logging, and Construction 4,100 4,100 0 0% 89
  • Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights Div. Construction 141,200 133,200 -8,000 -6% 211
  • Danville Mining, Logging, and Construction 700 600 -100 -14% 306
  • Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL Mining, Logging, and Construction 10,800 10,400 -400 -4% 180
  • Decatur Mining, Logging, and Construction 3,200 2,700 -500 -16% 317
  • Elgin Div. Construction 15,300 14,600 -700 -5% 194
  • Kankakee Mining, Logging, and Construction 1,500 1,400 -100 -7% 234
  • Lake County-Kenosha County, IL-WI Div. Construction 16,500 16,500 0 0% 89
  • Peoria Mining, Logging, and Construction 8,400 7,900 -500 -6% 211
  • Rockford Mining, Logging, and Construction 6,100 5,700 -400 -7% 234
  • Springfield Mining, Logging, and Construction 3,800 3,100 -700 -18% 326
  • St. Louis, MO-IL Mining, Logging, and Construction 71,200 67,700 -3,500 -5% 194

Nationally, construction employment decreased in 241, or 67 percent, out of 358 metro areas between August 2019 and last month, AGC reported on Oct. 1. Association officials urged Congress to pass new coronavirus relief measures before leaving town.

“Although residential construction is picking up in many areas, public and nonresidential construction are shrinking,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Project cancellations are spreading, and fewer new projects are starting up. That combination makes further employment declines inevitable unless the federal government steps up support for infrastructure.”

Simonson noted that construction employment was stagnant in 29 metro areas and increased in only 88 areas (25 percent) over the past 12 months. Nineteen metros had all-time lows for August construction employment, while 33 areas had record highs for August, in data going back to 1990 for most areas.

Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas lost the most construction jobs over 12 months (-22,800 jobs, -10 percent), followed by New York City (-21,700 jobs, -13 percent). Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton, Mass. had the largest percentage decline (-38 percent, -2,200 jobs), followed by Johnstown, Pa. (-34 percent, -1,000 jobs).

Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, Ind. added the most construction jobs from August 2019 to August 2020 (4,800 jobs, 9 percent), followed by Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, Md. (4,300 jobs, 5 percent). Niles-Benton Harbor, Mich. had the highest percentage increase (16 percent, 400 jobs), followed by Fond du Lac, Wisc. (15 percent, 500 jobs) and Walla Walla, Wash. (15 percent, 100 jobs).

Association officials urged Congressional leaders to not leave town until after the election without passing much-needed new coronavirus relief measures. In particular, the construction officials called on Congress to pass new liability protections for firms that are taking steps to protect workers from the coronavirus. They also urged Congressional leaders to boost investments in infrastructure and pass measures designed to preserve payrolls.

“The coronavirus and efforts to mitigate its spread have left our economy deeply wounded, depressing demand for many types of commercial construction projects,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Congress can end the downward economic slide and help create needed new construction jobs by passing measures to boost demand and protect honest employers.”

View the metro employment 12-month , , , and .


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