UPDATED 12/28/11

Editor’s note: The grade for this Fact Check was changed from “In Progress” to “False.”

Gov. Neil Abercrombie says his administration is “doing infrastructure smarter” by heavily investing in capital projects across the state.

The result, he says, is a direct boost to Hawaii’s construction industry.

“These projects are contributing to Hawaii having the nation’s second highest rate of growth in construction jobs over the last year,” Abercrombie said in a recent posting to his website, “First Year Actions & Accomplishments”, which wraps up his first year in office.

Those projects are part of a $2.9 billion capital improvements budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal years. The governor has since proposed tacking on another $1.2 billion to the 2013 CIP budget.

Has the Abercrombie administration’s capital works plan spurred construction jobs at a higher rate than most states?

Abercrombie spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz pointed Civil Beat to the source of the claim: a monthly ranking by the Associated General Contractors of America. The association says its rankings are based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Turns out Hawaii did at one time rank No. 2 among the 50 states and the District of Columbia for construction employment growth. That was back in May, based on the preceding 12 months. Over that time period, Hawaii had posted a 4.2 percent gain, or 1,200 construction jobs.

The latest ranking, however, has Hawaii in the No. 38 spot for construction job growth between November 2010 and November 2011. (Abercrombie took office in December 2010.) The state’s construction industry lost 700 jobs during that time period.

Dela Cruz acknowledged that the No. 2 ranking is outdated, but said it was accurate at the time information was gathered for Abercrombie’s year-in-review, which was posted to the governor’s site Dec. 19.

“We need to make some adjustments to our ranking, but it doesn’t mean we’re going to stop making sure there are more construction jobs,” she said, noting that the governor has proposed increasing spending on capital projects. “Who knows where we’ll rank in the next ranking.”

The latest ranking was posted Dec. 20 by the Associated General Contractors of America, but the group appears to release the data monthly.

Since the May ranking cited by Abercrombie, Hawaii has ranked No. 9 at best for adding jobs. In June, Hawaii was in the No. 14 spot; No. 21 in July; No. 9 in August; No. 33 in October and No. 38 in November. (There is no September jobs report listed in the archives.)

The bottom line: Abercrombie’s touting of the state’s growth in construction jobs is misleading because the data is six months old. More updated — and less favorable — rankings have been published since then. And in fact, the state has lost construction jobs during his first year in office. So it’s false to claim in December that the state boasts the “nation’s second highest rate of growth in construction jobs over the last year.”

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