The Island in May had 4,700 fewer jobs in construction, mining and logging, according to data issued Tuesday by the Associated General Contractors of America. The drop-off was the fifth-largest decline in such jobs among national metropolitan areas, according to the report, which analyzed employment data from 337 metro areas. Long Island lost 8 percent of its construction jobs in the period.
New York, meanwhile, posted 5,100 fewer jobs, the third-largest drop in the United States in the study, and a 5 percent dip.
Pearl Kamer, chief economist at the Long Island Association, the Island's largest business group, said the number of construction jobs has fallen because of government spending constraints, which restrict public projects such as road and bridge construction, and the Island's still-floundering housing market.
Both factors spell bad news for Long Island's blue-collar workers. The decline in construction jobs, Kamer said, could lead to a "hollowing out of the middle class."
Last year's job losses are a continuation of the industry's downward spiral since 2008, said Marc Herbst, executive director of the Long Island Contractors' Association. Declines in public and private projects forced the Island's construction industry to shrink by 12,000 jobs from 2008 to 2010, he said. "We were optimistic before" this report, he said, adding that it's now clear the market hasn't improved.
Construction employment declined in 49 percent of surveyed metro areas nationwide, according to Tuesday's report. More than one-third of regions posted employment increases.
Wednesday, lawmakers in Washington reached a tentative deal on a $109-billion bill to fund federal road and bridge construction for two years, a potential boost to construction jobs.
Herbst, however, called the possible deal "another stopgap," adding that such short-term solutions don't allow contractors to organize forthcoming projects. "It's better than nothing," he said. "But no one is planning for the future."