CARSON CITY, Nev. — The construction industry has been the hardest hit sector of the economy during the recession, and the Reno-Sparks region is the nation's hardest hit area, according to a report released Wednesday.
The report by the Associated General Contractors of America ranks the metropolitan area 337th based on the percentage of construction jobs gained or lost in the past year. From August 2008 to August 2009, Reno lost 35 percent of its construction work force, in large part because of the collapse in the housing market.
"Reno may be the worst off, but it is far from alone," said Stephen E. Sandherr, CEO of the contractor's group. "All but 13 of the nation's 337 largest communities saw declines in construction employment over the last year."
The area comprising Duluth, Minn., and Superior, Wis., did only slightly better, followed by the Tucson, Ariz., Wenatchee, Wash., and Redding, Calif.
On the other end of the spectrum, construction employment in Columbus, Ind., grew 14 percent. Other spots that improved include Anderson, Ind., Tulsa, Okla., Longview, Wash., and Baton Rouge, La.
"This year investments in construction are likely to drop by as much as $193 billion, an 18 percent drop, compared to last year," Sandherr said in a conference call. "Construction jobs account for 5 percent of the work force nationally, yet 20 percent of the jobs lost during the recession have been in construction."
The contractors group is proposing tax breaks and other measures to jump start new construction.
"The problems facing the construction industry aren't just devastating construction firms and construction workers," Sandherr said. "These problems are crippling our broader economy."
The group said it plans to lobby lawmakers in Washington, D.C., to support its plan, called "Build Now for the Future: A Blueprint for Economic Growth."
Besides creating tax credits and extending current tax cuts, the plan also advocates streamlining environmental reviews, accelerating licensing of new nuclear power plants, establishing a multiyear budget for federal public works projects, avoiding government mandated labor agreements, and rescinding "Buy American" provisions in the $787 billion federal stimulus law.
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