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Cities With the Most Construction Workers

The COVID-19 pandemic has had sweeping impacts on the economy and virtually every industry sector. While the construction industry has weathered the storm better than some hard-hit industries—such as leisure and hospitality—construction is facing some unique challenges. Construction companies are currently contending with project cancellations and delays, supply chain disruptions, and COVID infections among workers. Some parts of the country are more reliant on the construction industry than others, and some are facing worse COVID outbreaks and more stringent business restrictions, meaning the pandemic’s impact on the construction industry has had differential geographic impacts. While construction jobs account for 5.2 percent of all jobs nationally (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics), some cities rely more heavily on the construction industry for employment.

Historically, construction employment tends to follow the business cycle, fluctuating with economic expansions and recessions. During the Great Recession that lasted from late-2007 to mid-2009, construction employment fell by 20 percent and then continued to fall until early 2010. It then steadily increased until early 2020. Along with overall employment, employment in the construction industry fell sharply in the spring during the early stages of the pandemic. It started rebounding in May but is still below pre-pandemic levels. Compared to a year ago, construction employment is currently down 2.4 percent.

Construction employment tracks economic expansions and contractions

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Construction employment varies substantially on a geographic level. Some cities and states are much more reliant on the construction industry than others, with some areas employing large shares of construction workers. The West tends to depend more heavily on the construction industry while the Midwest and Northeast have lower shares of construction employment. At the state level, Wyoming and Utah boast the largest shares of employment in construction, at 8.5 and 7.6 percent, respectively. Connecticut has the lowest share of employment in construction in the country at just 3.6 percent.

The West tends to depend more heavily on the construction industry

Compared to a year ago, most states experienced declines in construction employment. Down 25 percent from the end of 2019, Vermont had the largest drop in construction employment out of all states. Some states, including Virginia and Missouri, saw employment in construction increase from 2019. Construction employment grew by 5.7 percent in Virginia and by 8 percent in Missouri.

Most states saw a decline in construction employment from a year ago

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To find the metros with the most construction workers, researchers at Construction Coverage analyzed the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The researchers ranked metro areas according to the share of employment in construction. Researchers also calculated the construction employment share compared to the national average, the total number of construction employees, and the year-over-year change in construction employment.

U.S. Metros Most Reliant on Construction Jobs

Anaheim, CA

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15. Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine, CA

  • Share of employment in construction: 6.9%
  • Share of employment in construction (compared to average): +33.2%
  • Total number of construction employees: 107,200
  • Year-over-year change in construction employment: +1.6%
San Rafael, CA

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14. San Rafael, CA

  • Share of employment in construction: 7.0%
  • Share of employment in construction (compared to average): +36.1%
  • Total number of construction employees: 7,600
  • Year-over-year change in construction employment: -2.6%
Orlando, FL

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13. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL

  • Share of employment in construction: 7.0%
  • Share of employment in construction (compared to average): +35.5%
  • Total number of construction employees: 85,500
  • Year-over-year change in construction employment: -2.8%

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Houston, TX

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12. Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX

  • Share of employment in construction: 7.2%
  • Share of employment in construction (compared to average): +39.5%
  • Total number of construction employees: 220,000
  • Year-over-year change in construction employment: -9.3%
Las Vegas, NV

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11. Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV

  • Share of employment in construction: 7.3%
  • Share of employment in construction (compared to average): +41.2%
  • Total number of construction employees: 68,800
  • Year-over-year change in construction employment: -6.6%
Riverside, CA

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10. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA

  • Share of employment in construction: 7.3%
  • Share of employment in construction (compared to average): +41.8%
  • Total number of construction employees: 107,300
  • Year-over-year change in construction employment: +1.9%
Reno, NV

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9. Reno, NV

  • Share of employment in construction: 7.4%
  • Share of employment in construction (compared to average): +43.3%
  • Total number of construction employees: 17,800
  • Year-over-year change in construction employment: -2.7%
Casper, WY

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8. Casper, WY

  • Share of employment in construction: 7.5%
  • Share of employment in construction (compared to average): +45.5%
  • Total number of construction employees: 2,800
  • Year-over-year change in construction employment: 0.0%
Tacoma, WA

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7. Tacoma-Lakewood, WA

  • Share of employment in construction: 7.5%
  • Share of employment in construction (compared to average): +44.5%
  • Total number of construction employees: 23,600
  • Year-over-year change in construction employment: -6.7%
Salem, OR

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6. Salem, OR

  • Share of employment in construction: 7.7%
  • Share of employment in construction (compared to average): +49.5%
  • Total number of construction employees: 12,300
  • Year-over-year change in construction employment: -1.6%
Coeur d'Alene, ID

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5. Coeur d’Alene, ID

  • Share of employment in construction: 8.0%
  • Share of employment in construction (compared to average): +54.3%
  • Total number of construction employees: 5,200
  • Year-over-year change in construction employment: -13.3%
Santa Rosa, CA

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4. Santa Rosa-Petaluma, CA

  • Share of employment in construction: 8.6%
  • Share of employment in construction (compared to average): +65.9%
  • Total number of construction employees: 16,600
  • Year-over-year change in construction employment: -5.1%
Vallejo, CA

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3. Vallejo, CA

  • Share of employment in construction: 9.7%
  • Share of employment in construction (compared to average): +87.4%
  • Total number of construction employees: 12,800
  • Year-over-year change in construction employment: -3.8%
Baton Rouge, LA

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2. Baton Rouge, LA

  • Share of employment in construction: 11.8%
  • Share of employment in construction (compared to average): +129.3%
  • Total number of construction employees: 46,800
  • Year-over-year change in construction employment: -3.7%
Lake Charles, LA

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1. Lake Charles, LA

  • Share of employment in construction: 19.0%
  • Share of employment in construction (compared to average): +267.9%
  • Total number of construction employees: 18,600
  • Year-over-year change in construction employment: -16.2%

Detailed Findings & Methodology

With 19 percent and nearly 12 percent, respectively, of their workers employed in the construction industry, two Louisiana metro areas—Lake Charles and Baton Rouge—rely most heavily on the construction industry. Compared to the national average, the Lake Charles metro area has a concentration of construction workers that is 267 percent greater. The average construction employment share among the metros with the most construction workers is 8.7 percent, several percentage points above the national level of 5.2 percent.

With the exception of the Riverside, CA metro area, all of the metros with the largest shares of employment in construction experienced a drop or no change in their construction employment from 2019. Because these metros are so reliant on the construction industry, they are particularly vulnerable to disruptions to the industry due to the pandemic. While construction employment has rebounded substantially from the spring, overall construction employment is still down. Areas that are experiencing bad COVID outbreaks during the winter may see their construction industry recovery slow down or stall.

To find the metros with the most construction workers, researchers at Construction Coverage analyzed the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’s 2019 and 2020 Current Employment Statistics data. Metro areas were ranked by the share of employment in construction. In the event of a tie, the metro with the larger number of construction employees was ranked higher. Researchers also calculated the share of employment in construction compared to the national average and the change in construction employment from November 2019 to November 2020. Construction employment shares and the number of construction employees are from November 2020 data. Only metropolitan areas with available data from BLS were included.

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