Construction employment declined in 232 out of 337 metropolitan areas between December 2009 and December 2010, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released today by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials said that construction employment was likely affected by severe winter weather in many states and the winding down of a number of stimulus and other temporary federal construction programs.

“It looks like severe winter weather put an early halt to a number of projects just as stimulus and base realignment work was already starting to wind down,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Bad weather and poor timing conspired to make December a pretty unhappy month for a lot of construction workers around the country.”

Las Vegas-Paradise, Nev. lost more construction jobs (-10,700 jobs, -20 percent) than any other metro areas. Napa, Calif. (-1,000 jobs, -36 percent) lost the highest percentage. Other areas experiencing large declines in construction employment included Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, Ill. (-10,500 jobs, -9 percent); Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif. (-7,900 jobs, -7 percent); Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif. (-5,900 jobs, -10 percent); and Northern Virginia (-5,700 jobs, -9 percent).

Columbus, Ohio added more construction jobs (2,700 jobs, 9 percent) than any of the 67 metro areas to add jobs during the past year. Hanford-Corcoran, Calif. added the highest percentage (22 percent, 200 jobs). Other areas adding a large number of jobs included Dallas-Plano, Texas (2,100 jobs, 2 percent); Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, Ariz. (1,900 jobs, 2 percent); Pittsburgh, Pa. (1,800 jobs, 4 percent); and Greeley, Colo. (1,400 jobs, 17 percent). Construction employment was unchanged in 38 metro areas.

Citing a construction industry survey released last week indicating most contractors expect construction demand to remain weak for much of 2011, association officials urged Congress to support the Obama Administration’s plans for new infrastructure investments. They noted that maintaining and improving road, bridge, transit and water systems would boost overall employment while protecting taxpayers from having to pay for costly repairs later.

“If we are serious about reducing the federal debt, the last thing we need is to allow our infrastructure to deteriorate to the point of disrepair,” said Stephen Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Allowing small maintenance expenses to become large emergency repair costs will punish commuters and shippers now and taxpayers later.”