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Construction Jobs Picture Mixed, AGC Says

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

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As spending grows in nonresidential construction, data shows employment growth in that sector to be lagging, suggesting contractors are having a hard time finding qualified workers, a new report shows.

However, with 19,000 construction jobs added in February and the number of unemployed workers dipping to the lowest level since data tracking began in 2000, the overall picture remains “positive” for the construction industry, according to an analysis of new government data by the Associated General Contractors of America.

Bridge maintenance crew
© iStock.com / narvikk

“[I]t appears that many nonresidential construction firms have run out of people to hire to keep pace with demand for new projects,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist.

“[I]t appears that many nonresidential construction firms have run out of people to hire to keep pace with demand for new projects,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist.

Association officials continue to push for the measures outlined in their “Workforce Development Plan,” including steps to make it easier for schools, nonprofits, and firms to establish construction training programs.

“In our eagerness to send every student to college, our education system has inadvertently signaled that high-paying careers in fields like construction are less than desirable,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s CEO. “Yet if we give more students multiple paths to success, more of them will graduate from high school and find the right path to fulfilling and rewarding careers.”

By the Numbers

U.S. firms employed 6.6 million people in February, the most since December 2008 and a gain of 253,000 from February a year ago, AGC reported.

construction workers

AGC

Both residential and nonresidential construction added jobs for the month and year, AGC reports, relying on new government data.

Both residential and nonresidential construction added jobs for the month and year. Residential construction (building and specially trade contractors) added 15,900 in February and 155,100 over 12 months. Nonresidential construction (building, specialty trade, and heavy and civil engineering construction) expanded by 3,500 employees for the month and 98,300 (2.5 percent) over the year-ago level.

Among nonresidential construction employment categories, building expanded by 4,300 employees. Heavy and civil engineering construction gained 700 employees. The AGC said those gains were offset by the nonresidential specialty trade contractors segment, which saw a decline of 1,500 jobs.

The increase in nonresidential employment occurred despite the fact that the Census Bureau reported March 1 that spending on nonresidential construction projects increased 12 percent between January 2015 and the same month in 2016, the AGC said.

Meanwhile, the number of unemployed jobseekers in February who last worked in construction totaled 749,000, the lowest February total since the series began in 2000.

The industry unemployment rate was 8.6 percent, a 10-year low for the month.

As the number of unemployed workers continues to decline, construction pay continues to increase, Simonson added, noting that average hourly earnings in construction increased by 2.4 percent during the past twelve months, nearly double the 1.3 percent increase during the previous 12 months.

   

Tagged categories: Associated General Contractors (AGC); Associations; Business conditions; Economy; Jobs; Worker training; Workers

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