Construction employment in the United States increased in 136 out of 337 metropolitan areas between July 2010 and July 2011, declined in 148 and stayed level in 53, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released by the Associated General Contractors of America.

Association officials noted that the local employment data remains mostly stagnant amid declines in publicly funded construction activity.

“Even as we are beginning to experience a modest increase in private-sector construction activity, public construction budgets are contracting,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “The big worry for construction workers is that private demand will again slip while governments continue to cut back on infrastructure investments.”

Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, Ill. added more construction jobs (12,900 jobs, 11 per cent) than any other metro area during the past year while Lake County-Kenosha County, IL-WI, added the highest percentage (23 per cent, 2,900 jobs).

The largest job losses were in the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta area (-8,300 jobs, -9 per cent); followed by New York City (-6,600 jobs, -6 per cent); and Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale (-5,500 jobs, -5 per cent.

Both Lewiston, Idaho (-18 per cent, -200 jobs) and Panama City-Lynn Haven-Panama City Beach, Fla. (-18 per cent, -900 jobs) lost the highest percentage.

Association officials said they were concerned that federal, state and local policy-makers were too focused on cutting construction budgets instead of tackling many of their more pressing fiscal challenges.

They noted that cutting construction budgets doesn’t address out-of-control entitlement and pension obligations and only shifts costs down the road as taxpayers will be forced to pay to fix broken structures and repair decayed infrastructure.

“Countries do not rebuild their economies by neglecting the very infrastructure businesses rely upon to succeed,” said the association’s chief executive officer Stephen E. Sandherr.