CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia lost 4,400 construction jobs between Apr. 2014 and April of this year, according to the most recent numbers from the Associated General Contractors of America — more than anywhere else in the United States.
“Not only has West Virginia had the largest percentage decline, but we have also had the largest total job loss in the nation,” Mike Clowser, executive director of the Contractors Association of West Virginia, said of the numbers.
Other states to report job losses included Mississippi, Ohio, Nebraska and Rhode Island.
West Virginia’s loss of 13 percent, though, is more than double the nearest state, Mississippi, at 6.3 percent.
In comparison, 40 states and the District of Columbia added construction jobs during the same time period. California reported more new construction jobs than any other state during the 12 months in the report.
Ken Simonson, AGC chief economist, said construction has fallen so far and for so long in most states, though, that many veteran workers have left the industry for other sectors or have retired. He said such workforce shortages along with infrastructure funding challenges are threats to continued future growth.
Clowser said retirements have been realities in parts of West Virginia. Contractors and construction companies have also merged, moved workers to other geographical areas or closed specific divisions like those dealing with coal industry work.
“It’s been a challenging time for construction over the last couple years,” Clowser said on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
“If you are not an eternal optimistic, probably construction is not your line of work. We do see things picking up (soon).”