Steel Markets

AGC: Vaccine Mandate Withdrawn, But Labor Shortage Persists

Written by David Schollaert

Construction employment in December remained below pre-pandemic levels in more than half of U.S. states as firms struggle to find enough workers to hire, reports the Associated General Contractors of America in its latest analysis of government data. AGC hopes that this week’s decision by the Biden administration to withdraw its emergency vaccine mandate will ease the sector’s labor challenges, as firms avoid losing workers unwilling to comply with COVID shots.

AGC was among the many organizations that had filed suit against the mandate, which was blocked by the Supreme Court earlier this month on the grounds that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) had exceeded its authority to regulate public health. The administration continues to urge businesses to voluntarily implement vaccine and testing requirements for their workers to stem the spread of the Omicron virus.

AGC argued that the rule, which would have applied only to firms with 100 or more employees, would have done little to boost vaccination rates among construction workers, as 64% of industry firms have workforces below that number. With nearly 90% of construction firms having a hard time finding labor, the rule would simply have encouraged vaccine-hesitant workers to move to smaller firms, AGC said.

“The Biden administration is right to abandon its misguided vaccine emergency rule, and we encourage them to do the same with a similar measure affecting federal contractors that we are also challenging in court,” said Stephen Sandherr, AGC’s CEO. “At the same time, we will continue to work with the administration to ensure its planned permanent vaccine rule applies only to workers in industries like healthcare that OSHA deems at high risk from the coronavirus.”

Construction Employment

From November to December last year, construction employment decreased in 16 states, grew in 32 states and D.C., and was flat in Nevada and South Dakota, AGC reported. Florida lost the most jobs, down 3,400 or 0.6%, followed by 2,900 jobs lost in New York and 1,200 in Pennsylvania.

Texas added the most jobs in that same period, adding 10,400 to payrolls or 1.4%, followed by Ohio’s 5,700 new jobs and Missouri, which grew by 3,700. West Virginia had the largest percentage gain at 4.6% or 1,500 new workers, followed by New Mexico’s 3.2% and Louisiana’s 3.0%.

By David Schollaert,

David Schollaert

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