LA CROSSE, Wis. -- As the economy struggles to recover, the construction industry remains on shaky ground.
A new analysis of Labor Department data by the Associated General Contractors of America shows Wisconsin ranks second to last when it comes to creating construction jobs.
The report shows Wisconsin lost 10,200 construction jobs between June 2011 and June 2012, an 11 percent drop.
Larry Venner is one of the lucky ones. He's been a construction worker in La Crosse for more than two decades, and he said, at this point, he's not worried about getting laid off.
"Having 23 years of experience, I'm not too worried. There's always something out there for you to do," said Venner.
But he understands why people just getting into construction might be nervous.
The new report shows construction employment fell in 25 states over the last year. Alaska lost the highest percentage of construction jobs, with Wisconsin ranking right behind it.
But, on a local level, the owner of La Crosse construction company Mastercraft Homes, Mark Etrheim, said those numbers are surprising.
"Locally, we're doing phenomenally well compared to the last five years. Nothing at all like 2006, 2005, when we were down very significantly. We lost probably 80 percent of our sales that year, in 2007. So we are increasing now for the first time in five years," said Etrheim.
He said the key to staying afloat for his business has been expanding into more than just new home construction.
"We went into some remodeling. We went into some commercial work. We did some of those things that we had never done before," said Etrheim.
From a statewide perspective, Secretary Paul Jadin of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation said the answer to creating more construction jobs is making it easier for businesses to grow.
"It's all going to be predicated on people being willing to take a risk to grow their businesses, to create business. As companies are created and as businesses expand, clearly there are opportunities for more construction," said Jadin.
Venner said right now, both businesses and would-be homeowners are probably thinking about building up their wallets before they can think about building anything else.
"Well, you feel there are a lot of people out there that are hurting now, and it's not only construction. So, I guess I look at it a little broader," said Venner.
Officials from the Associated General Contractors of America warn the number of construction jobs around the country is likely to shrink if federal and state officials continue cutting investments in public construction projects.
The District of Columbia and North Dakota rank at the top of the list for creating new construction jobs.