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CASPER, Wyo. — Thirty-three states lost construction jobs over the past year, an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America shows.

Wyoming was one of only 17 states posting an over-the-year increase, adding 1,200 jobs.

North Dakota became the first state recently to exceed a previous high. The state added 800 jobs over the year, which brought its March total to 21,900.

The largest percentage decreases occurred in West Virginia (minus 11.1 percent), Wisconsin (minus 8.0 percent) and Georgia (minus 7.6 percent).

Construction spending nationally fell 1.4 percent in February to its lowest level since 1999, according to the Census Bureau.

Ken Simonson, chief economist for the association, noted that in March, construction employment was off by 29 percent from its peak in April 2006.

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The industry unemployment rate nationally stood at 20 percent in March, not seasonally adjusted, the highest of any industry and more than twice the overall U.S. rate.

In view of such continuing weakness, industry officials are urging federal and state officials to improve the investment climate for construction by implementing tax credits that would encourage retail and restaurant upgrades, improve efficiency of commercial buildings and help contractors invest in more efficient equipment.

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