The president of the East Texas Builders Association and a logging company owner are disputing a report suggesting the tri-county Longview metro area saw 1,300 construction-related jobs evaporate in the past year.
“We have not had that kind of job loss,” said Chris Hall, president of the East Texas Builders Association, which has about 380 members. “I dispute that. I don’t think they are accurate numbers.”
Hall was referring to an analysis from Associated General Contractors of America, which said the Longview Metropolitan Statistical Area of Gregg, Rusk and Upshur counties ranked next to the bottom among 358 metros nationwide in terms of the percentage of job losses from June 2018 to June 2019.
Longview fared slightly better in July, tying Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, Connecticut, at 354.
The reports tagged other area job losses, too. They showed the Longview area saw the number of mining, logging and construction jobs drop 10%, to 13,800 from 15,300 from June 2018 to June 2019, and by 9% to 13,700 from 15,000 jobs from July 2018 to July 2019.
Auburn-Opelka, Alabama, and Spokane-Spokane Valley, Washington, ranked number 1, respectively, in June and July while Atlantic City-Hammonton, New Jersey, ranked 358 both months.
Ken Simonson, chief economist for the association, based in Arlington, Virginia, said he determined the job losses and the rankings of metro areas based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Simonson said job shortages do occur, adding some workers, especially those operating heavy equipment, are “very mobile.”
Still, Hall said, “We are not experiencing this labor shortage. We are not experiencing job losses.”
However, he said skilled craftsmen such as plumbers, electricians, painters and framers are retiring, adding, “We don’t have young people in line to take their place.
Gary Vandusen, owner of Vandusen Timber Corp. in the Hallsville area, said employment stays “pretty steady” in the logging industry. While Hallsville is outside of the Longview MSA, Vandusen said he handles logging operations in a 60-mile radius.
He questioned logging being locked in the same category as mining.
“All I can say is statistics are wrong 18% of time,” Vandusen said.
Amanda Nobles, executive director of the Kilgore Economic Development Corp., said she did not have the breakdown on the number of people working in logging and mining in the Longview MSA. The energy industry is considered part of mining.
The number of logging and mining jobs increased from 247,600 statewide in July 2018 to 256,400 in July 2019, the Texas Workforce Commission reported.