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San Diego sees 14.4% drop in construction employment

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Over the past 12 months, construction employment has taken a dip in San Diego, but it is still relatively low when compared to other metropolitan areas in the nation and in California, according to a national analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America.

The study shows that from June 2008 through June 2009, 11,200 jobs were lost, which brings the total number of employed construction workers to 66,700. This is a 14.4 percent drop from a year ago.

“These numbers reflect both the residential and nonresidential sectors,” said AGC Chief Economist Ken Simonson. “This is why the numbers are so down across the board nationally. If the report only looked at nonresidential, then the numbers wouldn’t be so down.”

Local construction experts agree that these numbers are reflective of what they have seen over the past year in San Diego.

“These numbers seem reasonable,” said Roel Construction President Ken Elliott, who added that most of the work in San Diego right now is coming from the military, school districts and government agencies like Caltrans.

Jim Ryan, executive vice president of the local AGC chapter, also said that these areas are where the work is in San Diego and that the analysis is a good indicator of the local construction employment market.

“Over the next year I will predict the (employment) numbers will increase, because of all the military work coming,” Ryan said.

President and CEO of the Associated Builders and Contractors San Diego chapter George Hawkins said that he wouldn’t disagree with the 14.4 percent drop in employment AGC is reporting, and that he sees a “glimmer” of hope for the next 12 months, due to the very recent spike in jobs journeymen have received.

In California overall, the AGC study shows a larger percentage of construction jobs were lost when compared to San Diego.

In the last 12 months, the state has seen an 18.9 percent drop and a total of 152,000 jobs lost.

The report also stated that there are currently 653,400 employed construction workers across California.

The analysis, which ranks the 12-month construction employment change reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for 352 metro areas, shows that few places in the United States have been spared the widespread downturn in construction employment over the past year.

San Diego ranks 124 out of 352 metropolitan cities in the nation in terms of lowest percentage change in construction employment since June 2008.

Construction employment declined in all but 19 communities in the United States.

The worst hit were Pascagoula, Miss., and Reno/Sparks, Nev. -- both lost one out of every three construction jobs over the past year.

Over 200 metropolitan areas suffered double-digit percentage declines in construction employment.

Only 10 cities saw increases in construction employment since the previous June.

These include Columbus, Ind. -- where construction employment jumped over 31 percent -- and the Weirton-Steubenville area along the West Virginia-Ohio border, where construction employment rose almost 17 percent.

Nine other metro-areas saw no change in construction employment.

“Construction workers remain, unfortunately, on the leading edge of job losses during this recession,” Simonson said. “While other sectors of the economy have been hit hard, construction employment has been devastated.”

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