Updated April 21, 2020 - 8:17 am
Nevada construction employment growth led the nation last month with another Southwestern state, even as the coronavirus pandemic started shutting down the economy and hard hats lost jobs around the U.S.
An estimated 101,100 people worked in Nevada’s construction industry in March, up 2 percent from February, tied with New Mexico for the biggest month-to-month percentage jump in the nation, the Associated General Contractors of America recently reported.
The trade association, which reported seasonally adjusted data, said construction employment rose month to month in 24 states, “held steady” in six, and tumbled in 20 states and Washington, D.C.
All told, the figures mark “a rapid deterioration in a previously vibrant job market for construction,” the group said.
“While construction employment declined in many parts of the country last month, far more states, local governments and project owners have halted construction in the five weeks since the government collected this data,” AGC chief economist Ken Simonson said in a news release. “Our two latest surveys show a steep rise in cancellations of scheduled projects, which is leading to furloughs and terminations for both jobsite and office workers.”
Projects on hold
Construction has been allowed to continue across the U.S., including in Nevada, during the pandemic while casinos and other businesses have been ordered closed to help contain the virus’ spread.
Still, the developers of two major Las Vegas projects have suspended construction amid the turmoil.
Drew Las Vegas owner Steve Witkoff’s namesake firm said last month it “paused construction crews” from coming on-site at the 67-story hotel-casino — the unfinished former Fontainebleau — and asked corporate employees to work from home.
Two weeks later, developers of MSG Sphere at The Venetian said they no longer expect to finish the $1.66 billion entertainment venue next year, pulling the plug on construction because of the pandemic.
When asked at a news conference this month why construction was deemed essential in Nevada, Gov. Steve Sisolak noted he kept mining and manufacturing open as well, and he doesn’t want “another 100,000 or more filing for unemployment if I can avoid it.”
He also said job sites have adopted increased protocols, and “it seems to be OK, but we’re reviewing it on a regular basis.”
Coronavirus hits construction industry
State officials have released guidance saying Nevada construction sites should ensure workers remain 6 feet apart, restrict meetings and gatherings to no more than 10 people and conduct daily surveys of workers’ health conditions.
Several workers, spread among high-profile Las Vegas projects, are known to have tested positive for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus.
They include four workers at the $4.3 billion Resorts World Las Vegas hotel-casino project; three at the $2 billion Allegiant Stadium; and one at the 777-room Circa hotel-casino project, downtown’s first newly built resort in decades.
The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. MSG Sphere is a project by Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp. and Las Vegas Sands.
By the numbers
Nevada’s construction employment grew from February to March at the fastest pace nationally in a tie with New Mexico. Here are the top 10 states where construction jobs grew fastest from March 2019 to last month.
New Mexico: 11% year-over-year job growth
North Dakota: 7%
South Dakota: 7%
Source: Associated General Contractors of America