Steel Markets

Construction Adds 1,000 Jobs in November

Written by Sandy Williams

The economy added 1,000 construction jobs in November and 146,000 jobs, or an increase of 2.0 percent, in the past 12 months, says an analysis of new government data by the Associated General Contractors of America. Slowing job gains may be a sign of labor shortage rather than weaker demand, says AGC.

“Contractors report they remain busy and have lots of projects on their order books,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “But they find it extremely difficult to fill many positions despite paying more than other industries. That’s not surprising, given that the total unemployment rate returned to a 50-year low in November—a sign that all industries are competing for workers.” 

Average weekly hours for all employees in construction increased from 38.7 in November 2018 to 39.1 in November 2019, even though construction employment rose by 2.0 percent over the year, noted Simonson. In contrast, weekly hours for the overall private sector remained flat at 34.4 hours, while total nonfarm employment increased by 1.5 percent. 

“One takeaway from these numbers is that contractors are adding workers faster than other sectors, but they are eager to hire even more people to keep pace with strong demand for projects,” Simonson commented. “To make up for the shortfall, many firms are asking workers to put in more hours.” The construction economist noted that it will be difficult for firms to continue asking existing staff to compensate for labor shortages in the long run. 

Average hourly earnings in construction—a measure of all wages and salaries—increased 2.7 percent over the year to $31.08. That figure was 10.2 percent higher than the private-sector average of $28.29, the association official noted. 

AGC encourages Congress and the Trump administration to pass the JOBs Act, boost funding for career and technical education and enact comprehensive immigration reform measures. The JOBS Act would make it easier for students in short-term credentialing programs that teach skills like construction to qualify for federal Pell Grants.

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