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Construction & Design

New York job losses highest in history, says DOL

April job losses were the largest in the history according to the latest numbers from the Department of Labor.

The coronavirus has cost one third of New York’s construction workers their jobs and the situation doesn’t look like it’s set to improve any time soon.

According to Associated General Contractors of America, New York City was the worst hit in the sector during April, losing 75,900 jobs, or 49 percent of the US total. before the virus hit, there were 157,800 workers in the city, according to the New York Building Congress.


Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist, said  few areas were left unscathed and warned, “Sadly, our latest survey shows project cancellations are escalating, making further job losses inevitable unless there is funding for widespread new projects.”

Construction employment declined in more than nine out of 10 metro areas from March to April, a time when industry employment typically increases in most locations, the AGC analysis shows.

Association officials said new federal transportation funding could help restore many lost construction jobs, but cautioned that new legislation released today by House Democrats includes new regulatory measures that could undermine the broader goals of the measure.

The economist said construction employment declined between March and April in 326, or 91 percent, out of 358 metro areas and increased in only 20 areas (6 percent). Industry employment was unchanged in 14 areas. Over the previous 30 years, 75 percent of metro areas added construction jobs from March to April, on average, while 12 percent of metros shed jobs.

Simonson noted that more respondents in the association’s latest survey reported an upcoming project had been canceled in May or June than in April, implying that further job losses are likely.

One-fifth of respondents reported a project scheduled to begin in May had been canceled, as did nearly one-quarter (24 percent) of respondents regarding a project scheduled to start in June or later, compared to 16 percent in April.

Association officials said new federal infrastructure investments in roads, bridges, transit and rail systems, like those proposed in a new transportation bill released today by House Democrats, would provide a needed boost to construction employment in many parts of the country and support a broader economic recovery. But they cautioned that new programmatic and regulatory requirements in the measure could undermine some the bill’s potential economic benefits.

They urged Congressional leaders to work in a broad, bipartisan manner to rapidly pass a measure that expands highway capacity, improves bridges, builds transit and rail systems and supports long-term economic growth before current legislation expires.

“It is encouraging to see House Democrats proposing a significant increase in investments for transportation infrastructure,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “With over 40 million people unemployed and construction jobs declining in most metro areas, Congress needs to ensure that new, sustainable, investments bring as many people back to work as possible to help improve our aging highway, transit and rail systems.”

Private sector jobs in New York City fell by 885,000, or 21.8 percent, to 3,178,200 in April 2020, according to the Department of Labor.

The April year-over-year decline is the largest in the history of the series and brought employment to its lowest level since September 2010. Job losses were widespread in April.

The largest employment decline occurred in leisure and hospitality, where employment plummeted by 335,000 over the year, or 71.9 percent.

The city’s private sector rate of change (-21.8 percent) compares to a 22.1 percent drop for the state and a 14.5 decline for the nation.

The city’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 14.2 percent in April 2020, an increase of 10.1 percent from March and a rise of 10.0 percent from April 2019. New York State’s rate was 14.5 percent in April 2020. The share of the city’s working age population (16+) who were employed was 48.1 in April.

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