While the construction industry has rebounded in a huge way from the good old days of the Great Recession, it continues to have its ups and downs. National statistics show the biggest industry employment gains in a decade. However, there have been setbacks in some parts of the country due to labor shortages, severe weather, and the uncertain fortunes of the natural gas industry.
However, 2015 was a great year to be working in the construction industry, according to information released by the Department of Labor. According to their data, 44 states and the District of Columbia began new construction projects within the January 2015-January 2016 period. And 30 new construction projects were added nationally in December of 2015 and January of 2016. This makes the construction industry as a whole one of the nation's biggest employment success stories of the last year. But not all regions got to share in this building bonanza. Because of the continuing natural gas controversy, and ultra-cheap foreign oil, construction work was noticeably down in states where drilling and fracking occur. The slow death of the coal industry has not helped, either. The victims here included North Dakota with a loss of over 5,000 construction jobs, Alaska, which lost a little over 1,500 jobs, West Virginia, which lost about 2,500 jobs, Wyoming, which lost a little over 1,0000 jobs, Kansas, which lost a similar number of jobs, and Pennsylvania, the second place "winner", with a loss of 3,600 jobs.
Happier news for employment in the construction industry came from states like California, Florida, Texas, Massachusetts, Maine, and Rhode Island. While the first two states have been consistently busy with construction projects in the last few years, construction has struggled in New England as a whole, so it is encouraging to see these latter three states back in the "win column". Other state winners included Nevada and New York, where Manhattan continues to enjoy a project boom. The biggest surprise here may be Hawaii, whose construction project rate climbed by 15%, making it the state with the overall biggest jump in construction projects.
The lack of winter in some parts of the country thanks to weather pattern El Niño, may have played a part in this upswing. Also credited are some state partnerships that gave many stalled infrastructure projects a jump start. And while some analysts say that the "invasion of the big box stores" may finally be behind us, different kinds of commercial building continue to be robust, as does residential construction. But while industry watchers are pleased, construction's labor shortages worry them. They warn that in order to keep the industry on an upwards track, and continue a rise in employment, construction’s next big boom needs to be in training and recruiting workers.