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News » US » Skills shortages hold back construction job rises » published 24 Sep 2018

Skills shortages hold back construction job rises

The majority of states – 45 plus the District of Columbia – experienced an increase in construction jobs in the year to August, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC).

AGC's state employment map for the year to August 2018 (click to enlarge) Above: AGC's state employment map for the year to August 2018 (click to enlarge)

AGC’s analysis of Labor Department data also showed that 33 states added construction jobs in the month to August 2018. Association officials welcomed the job gains but noted that the numbers would have been higher if contractors could only find more qualified workers to hire.

Texas and New Hampshire had the biggest annual job increases while New Jersey had the worst losses. California and North Dakota had the largest one-month gains, with Pennsylvania and Kentucky trailing.

"Only three states experienced a decline in construction employment over the past year, the fewest number with a decrease since May 2015," said AGC chief economist Ken Simonson. "These results show that contractors still expect to have plenty of work in the months ahead. The question many in the industry are asking is whether they will be able to find enough workers to keep pace with demand."

Texas added 56,100 jobs during the past year (7.9%). Other states adding a large number of new construction jobs over the past 12 months include California (40,400 jobs, 5.0%), Florida (39,300 jobs, 7.7%), Georgia (18,900 jobs, 10.4%), Arizona (14,900 jobs, 10.2%) and Michigan (14,600 jobs, 8.9%). New Hampshire added the highest percentage of new construction jobs during the past year (11.3%, 3,000 jobs), followed by Nevada (11.2%, 9,300 jobs), Georgia, Arizona, Oregon (9.2%, 9,100 jobs) and Michigan. Construction employment reached a record high in five states: Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Texas and Washington.

Only three states shed construction jobs between August 2017 and 2018, while construction employment was unchanged in Alaska and Pennsylvania. The largest and steepest percentage losses occurred in New Jersey (-6,600 jobs, -4.2%), followed by Kentucky (-2,600 jobs, -3.4%) and Missouri (-1,000 jobs, -0.8%).

California had the largest one-month job gain (5,200 jobs, 0.6%) among the 33 states that added construction jobs between July and August, followed by Florida (3,600 jobs, 0.7%) and Washington (2,900 jobs, 1.4%). North Dakota added the highest percentage of construction jobs for the month (2.6%, 700 jobs), followed by five states with a 1.4% increase: Washington, Minnesota (1,700 jobs), Iowa (1,100 jobs), Montana (400 jobs) and New Hampshire (400 jobs).

From July to August, construction employment declined in 15 states and DC but was unchanged in Alaska and Delaware. Pennsylvania lost the most construction jobs (-1,900, -0.7%), followed by Kentucky (-1,400 jobs, -1.8%) and Illinois (-1,200 jobs, -0.5%). Kentucky lost the highest percentage of construction jobs in August, followed by Arkansas (-1.1%, -600 jobs), Pennsylvania and Maine (-0.7%, -200 jobs).

Association officials noted that a survey the group released in late August found that 80% of construction firms are having a hard time finding qualified workers to hire. As a result, the association is calling on federal officials to double funding for career and technical education within five years, enact immigration reform and expand apprenticeship and other job training opportunities.

"Just because construction firms are hiring some workers doesn't mean they are hiring as many as they need," said Stephen Sandherr, the association's chief executive officer. "Getting federal officials to invest in career and technical training programs for construction will put even more people into high-paying construction careers."


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This article was published on 24 Sep 2018 (last updated on 25 Sep 2018).

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