Report: State adds 3,000 construction jobs

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 440 views 

Paced by double-digit growth in central Arkansas, construction jobs are on the rise in Arkansas.

The Associated General Contractors of America announced Tuesday (Feb. 6) the state added 3,000 new jobs from December 2016 to December 2017. That’s a 5% increase to 58,200 workers.

Construction employment increased in 269 out of 358 metro areas tracked by the AGC of America, which said new infrastructure funding would help ensure firms continue to expand their headcount in 2018.

The data is based on analysis of federal employment data.

“Construction employment continues to expand amid robust private-sector demand in many parts of the country,” Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist, said in a news release. “But with public-sector funding lagging, there is little doubt that more firms would be able to expand their headcount this year if Congress would enact a substantial boost in infrastructure projects, as many members of both parties advocate.”

The Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway metro added 1,700 jobs in the 12-month period, a 10% increase from 16,600 to 18,300. In Northwest Arkansas, construction employment in the Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers metro added 700 jobs, a 7% increase from 10,300 to 11,000. Construction jobs in Fort Smith were stagnant, reporting 5,300 jobs in both December 2016 and December 2017.

Association officials said firms in many parts of the country have continued to expand as private-sector demand for new construction projects continues to hit record levels. They cautioned, however, that public-sector funding for roads and bridges declined in 2017, making it hard for many firms that build infrastructure to expand.

Lagging investments in infrastructure will lead to more economic inefficiency.

“One of the biggest threats to the current economic expansion is that our aging infrastructure will cause shipping and traffic delays, which will raise costs, slow schedules and create new inefficiencies,” association CEO Stephen E. Sandherr said. “Rebuilding public infrastructure will help our economy remain competitive and ensure that construction employers continue to add jobs.”

Kevin Coakley, owner of Coakley Company Inc. in Hot Springs and president of AGC Arkansas, said the increase in the state’s construction jobs is no surprise, considering new development and construction projects continue to be very visible across the state, particularly in central and Northwest Arkansas.

AGC Arkansas, an affiliate of AGC of America and founded in 1934, is the oldest and largest association of general contractors in the state.

“One of our industry’s biggest concerns is the ability to find and employ new workers in our industry, particularly with near record low unemployment rates,” he said. He said AGC Arkansas is also proud to be a partner in Be Pro Be Proud, a statewide workforce initiative aimed at shrinking the “skills gap” that exists between Arkansas’ growing labor pool and industry and economic development prospects.

Randy Zook, president of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and the Associated Industries of Arkansas, introduced the public-private partnership two years ago.

Coakley also said AGC Arkansas is looking forward to sustaining the jobs momentum and contributions to economic growth in Arkansas, noting the importance of a solution for long-term highway funding and the impact of federal tax cuts.