Construction employment rises in U.S., falls locally

Construction employment remained down in November in the Wichita area, bucking the nationwide trend of stabilizing employment, the Associated General Contractors of America said Tuesday.

Statewide, construction employment is up 5 percent over November 2009, or about 2,800 jobs. But in Wichita, employment is off 7 percent since November 2009, down 1,000 jobs.

The battle locally is to keep employment stable by competing regionally for projects, according to Dave Wells, president of Wichita's Key Construction.

"We're just holding steady right now," Wells said. "We've picked up a couple of jobs that are allowing us to keep everybody employed."

Key's projects include a Verizon switch center in Lubbock, Texas; the Cypress Spring Alzheimer's unit in Wichita; a Holiday Inn in Alpine, Texas; and a historic-hotel renovation in the Kansas City area.

Locally, residential and commercial building is down in Wichita in 2010. According to city figures, it's down 7 percent, or about 870 total permits.

Nationally, the employment bump is coming from temporary federal funding for stimulus and military construction, the national contractors group said.

New hospital, university and power projects are offsetting severe declines in private sector projects, the contractors group said.

Locally, Wichita USD 259 bond projects are helping offset the lack of private-sector business.

"It is good to see the construction industry finishing the year on a relatively positive note," said Ken Simonson, the association's chief economist, in a statement. "But even if the industry is no longer on the brink, it is still a long way from recovering."

Phoenix added the most jobs, 3,100, over the past year while Chicago lost 14,800 construction jobs.