Construction employment declined in 324 out of 337 metropolitan areas over the past year, according to a new analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America of federal figures released today, as spending on construction projects dropped by more than $137 billion in November to a 6-year low of $900 billion.

“Private nonresidential construction is in freefall, with every category except private power construction down sharply compared to a year ago,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist.
Census Bureau figures released today show the metro Tacoma area has lost 2,400 construction jobs in the past 12 months for an 11-percent drop. Olympia builders have trimmed 600 jobs for the same percentage reduction. The statewide rate of decline is 17 percent over the year, with some markets like Wenatchee off by 28 percent.

Developer-financed construction suffered the largest decline in spending between November 2008 and November 2009. The AGC economist said that private lodging investments were down 46 percent; retail, warehouse and farm spending were down 41 percent and private office construction investments were down 39 percent.

A recovery in homebuilding may spark some improvement in retail construction later this year, and higher education and hospital construction may come back in the second half of 2010, Simonson suggested.