Business

Mississippi Coast posts nation's highest construction-job loss

CHEVRON 
 Chevron's Pascagoula Refinery invested $1.7 billion in its base oil plant, with the main processing unit pictured here, but completion of the project is one reason the Mississippi Coast led the nation in construction-job declines in November 2015 compared to November 2014.
CHEVRON Chevron's Pascagoula Refinery invested $1.7 billion in its base oil plant, with the main processing unit pictured here, but completion of the project is one reason the Mississippi Coast led the nation in construction-job declines in November 2015 compared to November 2014.

The Mississippi Coast had 16 percent fewer construction jobs in November 2015 compared with November 2014 -- the largest decline of any area in the nation, according to the Associated General Contractors of America.

Construction employment increased in 190 of the 358 metro areas analyzed, the association said, and 104 markets saw declines.

The Coast metro area includes George, Stone, Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties.

"Like many small markets, it's very dependent on just one or two projects that can make a big difference up or down," said Ken Simonson, AGCA's chief economist.

George L. Freeland Jr., executive director of the Jackson County Economic Development Foundation, said Simonson's comment is right. Two years ago, the Coast was at the top of the heap nationally for highest percentage of new construction jobs. At the time, Chevron Pascagoula Refinery's base-oil plant was being built, creating 3,000 construction jobs during peak construction in 2013.

Freeland noted the plant was a $1.7 billion investment. Ingalls Shipbuilding also completed its $20 million Maritime Training Academy in 2013.

"We enjoyed, through the Chevron expansion, one of the largest capital investments in the state of Mississippi," Freeland said. " In context, the numbers are trending down only because we were successful in achieving these large projects."

Nationally, Simonson expects construction jobs to increase in 2016, especially in areas with population gains. Mississippi is not one of those. It's one of seven states, he said, that lost population in the 12 months that ended July 1, the latest Census estimates show.

Other areas with the highest percentage of construction-job losses were Bloomington and Kankakee, Ill., down 14 percent; Fort Smith, Ark., down 13 percent; and Walla Walla, Wash., down 13 percent. The most construction jobs lost was in Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas, with 5,400 fewer jobs, a 7 percent decline.

The highest percentage gains were in Weirton-Steubenville, W.Va.-Ohio, up 50 percent; Boise, Idaho, up 19 percent; Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, up 18 percent; and Huntsville, Ala., up 18 percent.

New York City added 9,200 construction jobs, the most of any area and a 7 percent increase.

"Construction employment is expanding in more parts of the country now that firms appear to be having more success finding workers to hire," Simonson said in an AGCA news release. "Firms may not be able to continue expanding their head counts as rapidly unless public officials increase investments in career and technical education programs."

  Comments