Construction employers added 12,000 jobs in October, and unemployment in that sector fell to its lowest levels since 2006, according to a new report from Associated General Contractors of America.
The construction employment gains, along with rising wages and weekly hours, are consistent with survey results from the group that more firms are having a tough time finding enough qualified workers to fill available positions.
“For the past several months, the construction industry has added jobs at double the all-industry rate of 1.9 percent,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist, in a release. “Construction wages, which were already higher than the private-sector average, rose 2.6 percent in the last year — the fastest rate since early 2010 — as contractors ramped up their search for qualified workers.”
Construction employment totaled just under 6.1 million in October, the highest since May 2009, with a 12-month gain of 231,000 jobs, or 3.9 percent. Residential building and specialty trade contractors added a combined 8,000 employees since September, and 130,600 over 12 months — a jump of 6 percent.
Non-residential contractors — building, specialty trades, and heavy and civil engineering — experienced an overall gain of 3,600 employees for the month, and just under 100,000 over the past year.
“There were fewer unemployed, experienced constructions workers last month than at any time in the past eight years,” Simonson said. “These indicators — high weekly hours, low unemployment and accelerating wage gains — point to an industry that may be on the very of acute difficulty filling key positions.”
Nearly 1,100 construction firms were surveyed by the association in October, showing 83 percent reporting difficulty in finding craft workers, and 61 percent having trouble filling other professional positions. As a result, the association is pushing federal, state and local officials to enact a series of measures that would make it easier for school districts, local associations and private firms to establish career and technical education and training programs.
“The construction industry has made an impressive contribution to the nation’s employment gains this year,” said Stephen Sandherr, the association’s chief executive, in a release. “But those gains are in jeopardy unless schools, colleges and training programs can refill a pool of talent that is rapidly drying up.”