Steel Markets

May Construction Employment Climbs, Firms Scramble to Fill Positions: AGC

Written by David Schollaert

Construction employment increased by 36,000 jobs in May backed by rapidly rising hourly earnings. And a record number of job openings suggests contractors are seeking to hire even more workers, the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) reported.

“It is encouraging that contractors were able to add workers in May, but they will need many more to meet the increasing demand for infrastructure and private nonresidential projects,” AGC chief economist Ken Simonson said. “Despite steeply rising pay for hourly workers, job openings in construction hit an all-time high at the end of April, while the industry’s low unemployment rate suggests experienced workers are scarce.”

Average earnings for production and nonsupervisory employees – mainly hourly craft workers in construction – rose by 6.3% year over year (YoY) in May, the most since December 1982. Average earnings in the overall private sector rose slightly faster, by 6.5%, making it hard for contractors to attract enough applicants to fill all openings, the report said.

There were 494,000 construction-industry job openings at the end of April, a jump of 141,000, or 40%, YoY. That was the largest total for any month since that series began in 2000, Simonson added.

The unemployment rate among jobseekers with construction experience tumbled from 6.7% in May 2021 to 3.8% last month. And the number of unemployed construction workers fell by 250,000, or 39%, to 392,000. Those figures suggest there are few experienced jobseekers left to hire.

Total construction employment moved up by 36,000 employees to 7,664,000 in May, with gains across the industry. Employment in residential construction rose by 16,700 workers, including 5,000 employed by homebuilders and multifamily general contractors and 11,700 at residential specialty trade contractors.

Nonresidential firms added 19,400 employees, including 2,400 general building contractors, 5,700 nonresidential specialty trade contractors, and 11,300 heavy and civil engineering construction firms.

That the lack of available workers is undermining construction activity, AGC said, urging public officials to put in place more training programs to expose high school students and adults to career opportunities in construction. They also called on Congress and the Biden administration to allow more workers with construction skills to legally enter the country.

“There is no shortage of available, good-paying career opportunities in the construction industry,” AGC CEO Stephen Sandherr said. “Public officials should be exposing people to construction career opportunities that pay well and don’t require a college degree and the debt that all too often comes with it.”

By David Schollaert,

David Schollaert

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