In last Friday’s California jobs report by far the greatest percentage job growth was in the Construction sector.  Construction employment gained 6100 jobs over the month and 36,600 jobs over the year—a 6.9% employment gain, considerably higher than the other 11 employment sectors.


Let’s bring in Mr. Brandon Hooker, labor market analyst for EDD’s Labor Market Information Division (LMID)  to explain. The chart above (click to enlarge) prepared by Mr. Hooker shows the fall and rise of construction employment since January 2007. At the beginning of 2007, California had 915,000 construction jobs. Projections had construction employment growing rapidly to over one million jobs in the next few years.

Instead, construction employment collapsed during the Great Recession. Employment fell steadily and sharply down to 548,700 job in March 2011. Even after the California economy began to recover jobs in February 2010, construction employment declined. It did begin to increase after March 2011, and has increased steadily and gradually since.

In its job analysis, LMID divides the Construction sector into three main sub-sectors: Construction of buildings (residential and commercial), Heavy and Civil Engineering construction, and Specialty Trade contractors.  Mr. Hooker provides us with the breakdowns as follows. These breakdowns indicate the relatively limited role (10.9% of jobs) of heavy infrastructure projects–such as roads and highways, transit, water– which have become capital-intensive, and the main role of trade contractors (65.9% of construction employment).

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It might be added that when construction employment was running high in 2006 and 2007, the then- state Business, Transportation and Housing Agency under Ms. Sunne McPeak set out on a campaign to increase interest in construction careers. A task force at Caltrans was launched under Ms. Elizabeth Dooher, to identify potential labor shortages in construction trades. The Department of Industrial Relations launched the “I Built It” publicity (video, press materials) to convince young Californians that “there is no replacement for the pride an apprentice feels as she/he looks back at his/her work and says, I Built It.”

Given construction growth, it may be time for Ms. McPeak to reconstruct the campaign.