Colorado Springs leads state for construction employment

Colorado Springs led the state in construction employment last year, but projects nationwide only grew in four out of 337 metropolitan areas, said the Associated General Contractors of America.

The association said spending on projects dropped by $100 billion in December to a six-year low of $903 billion.

Colorado Springs ranked No. 216 for overall construction employment – the highest among Colorado cities. Denver-Aurora and Fort Collins-Loveland tied for No. 236, while Grand Junction – once the fastest growing city in the state – saw construction employment sink to one of the lowest levels in the country at No. 330.  First place honors went to Harrisburg, Pa.,  which added 1,500 new construction jobs for the year.

Data released this week by the Census Bureau and reviewed by the group’s chief economist Ken Simonson showed that private non-residential (which includes commercial, government, energy, water, transportation and infrastructure projects) spending dropped 18 percent compared to December 2008. Only power construction increased from year-ago levels, by 14 percent. Developer-financed categories recorded especially large declines, including lodging (down 46 percent); retail, warehouse and farm (down 37 percent); and office (down 35 percent).

“The impact of the stimulus is clearly being overshadowed by the sweeping downturn in overall construction demand,” Simonson said, adding that without more public investment, a bad employment situation would only get worse during 2010.

To illustrate, Simonson said publicly funded construction increased by 1 percent between December 2008 and 2009, and that stimulus spending helped boost highway and street construction by 3.7 percent, making it the largest public category. Educational construction, however, dropped 4 percent during the year. Private residential construction fell 11 percent for the year.