Kansas led the way in construction employment gains in April, according to a national study, but the gains are at least a year away in Wichita, local builders say.
The state gained 5,000 jobs, or 8.7 percent, in April, according to a study by the Associated General Contractors of America.
The employment gains were fed by increases in stimulus-funded projects and growing demand for single-family construction, but Wichita officials say those gains locally are still in the future.
"I see that they're saying employment has come back a bit, but I haven't seen it here," said Dave Wells, president of Wichita's Key Construction.
The reason: Wichita is relatively free of stimulus-related projects. Thus, any uptick in construction hiring will be tied to Wichita schools' bond issue work, Wells said.
"It's just not going to be stimulus projects here as much as school bond projects, and we're not really out of the box on those yet," he said.
As a result, Wells doesn't expect to see Wichita construction hiring bounce back for nine months.
"We're where we're at until the first quarter of next year," he said. "My heart would like to say the beginning of the first quarter, but realistically I'd have to say the end of the first quarter.
"January and February are historically slower construction months. You can't put work in places with frozen ground and snow."
Wess Galyon, president and CEO of the Wichita Area Builders Association, said there's been a slight uptick in residential building.
"It's coming back some, but kind of in specialty projects," he said. "We see small subcontractor and others getting a little bit busier, an uptick in that regard. Whether that holds or not through the year remains to be seen, but I think it will."
According to the general contractors association, seasonally adjusted construction employment rose from March to April in 29 states, decreased in 18 and held steady in three, plus the District of Columbia.
"A gradual turnaround appears to be taking hold after years of construction employment declines," Ken Simonson, the association's chief economist, said in a statement.
Other states gaining construction jobs in April included North Dakota and Wyoming with 1,300 jobs each, Oklahoma with 2,900 jobs and Massachusetts with 3,900 jobs.
Maine, which lost 1,800 jobs in April, saw the largest month-to-month decline.