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Grand Forks lost greatest percentage of construction jobs in the U.S. last year

The Grand Forks metro area had the greatest percentage of construction job losses in the nation last year, and the industry is calling for Congress to pass a $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill to give companies more work.

Construction businesses lost a total of 1,000 jobs in Grand Forks between December 2016 and December 2017, or 24 percent, according to numbers released by the Associated General Contractors of America. The city had about 3,100 employees in the industry, marking the largest percentage drop among the 358 metros the AGCA tracks.

Grand Forks ranked sixth for total number of jobs lost.

AGCA leadership and construction company representatives attributed the job decline to a drop in workload, particularly in the public sector.

"What makes these jobs even more frustrating is the fact many of them could have been avoided," AGCA spokesman Brian Turmail said during a Tuesday news conference at a Grand Forks warehouse. "Yet too many local construction firms that work on vital infrastructure like highways and bridges are seeing less work today than just a few years ago."

Opp Construction, a Grand Forks company that owns the warehouse where the media event was held, didn't cut jobs last year, but it has seen a drop in workload and couldn't hire the 30 to 40 people it typically does each construction season, Opp Vice President Sally Miskavige said.

The industry wants Congress to pass an infrastructure bill that could fund $1.5 trillion in road, bridge and waterway projects over the next decade. President Donald Trump previously said he would make fixing aging infrastructure in the country a priority, but it's unclear when Congress would take up an infrastructure bill.

Check back for updates as this story develops.

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, and covers crime and education. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family raises registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college, she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as a city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

Have a story idea? Contact Baumgarten at 701-780-1248.

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