San Diego County joined 145 other U.S. metro areas in seeing a decline in construction employment between November 2010 and November 2011, according to data released Dec. 28 by Virginia-based Associated General Contractors of America.

Local construction employed 52,600 people at the end of November, down 3 percent from a year ago. The contractors’ report ranks San Diego County at 231 among 337 metro areas for construction employment in the past year.

Construction jobs decreased in 146 markets, increased in 131 and stayed level in 60 markets. Association officials noted that construction employment is likely to continue declining in many areas because of a planned 6.2 percent cut in federal investments in construction and infrastructure for the 2012 fiscal year.

“There is no avoiding the pain that comes any time the single largest purchaser of construction services cuts investments by nearly 20 percent in two years,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist, noting that the fiscal year 2012 federal construction budget will be 18 percent smaller than the same budget for 2010. “It will take a lot more private sector growth to offset declining federal demand.”

— Lou Hirsh