Steel Markets

AGC: Construction Employment Fell in April Because of Labor Shortage

Written by David Schollaert

Construction employment edged up by just 2,000 jobs in April because contractors scrambled to find workers in an increasingly tight labor market, the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) reported.

“The pause in employment gains last month most likely signifies a shortage of qualified workers rather than any slowdown in demand for projects,” AGC chief economist Ken Simonson said. “In fact, job openings in construction hit an all-time high at the end of March, while the industry’s unemployment rate was the lowest ever recorded for April.”

To address both short- and long-term worker shortages, AGC urged the federal government to expand permits for foreign-born workers and to support career training and education. The move would enable more workers to acquire skills for high-paying construction careers.

“With an overall unemployment rate approaching all-time lows, it is clear that employers in general – and construction firms in particular – need more foreign-born workers immediately,” AGC CEO Stephen Sandherr said. “It is also vital to provide more opportunities for American students and workers to gain construction skills through a range of career education, training, and apprenticeship programs.”

The unemployment rate among jobseekers with construction experience tumbled from 7.7% in April 2021 to 4.6% last month. The measure was the lowest April rate since the data series began in 2000. The number of unemployed construction workers fell by 304,000, or 40%, to 464,000, a 22-year low for April.

There were 415,000 construction-industry job openings at the end of March, a jump of 69,000, or 20% year-on-year (YoY). That was the largest total for any month since that series began in 2000, Simonson noted, citing government data released on Wednesday.

Total construction employment inched up by 2,000 employees to 7,628,000 in April. Employment in residential construction rose by 3,800 workers, including 2,500 employed by homebuilders and multifamily general contractors, and 1,300 at residential specialty trade contractors.

Employment dipped by 2,000 at nonresidential construction firms, the first decline in eight months. The losses were limited to nonresidential specialty trade contractors, which shed 6,400 employees. General building contractors added 3,900 workers, while heavy and civil engineering construction firms added 500 employees.

Demand for construction workers remains strong and will grow further as funds are awarded from the infrastructure bill, which was signed into law in November.

By David Schollaert,

David Schollaert

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