Steel Markets

Construction Adds 16,000 Jobs, Unfilled Positions Remain High: AGC

Written by David Schollaert

Construction employment increased by 16,000 jobs in August, though the sector’s unemployment rate was up at 3.9%, the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) reported.

Contractors were eager to hire more employees last month though they were stymied by a dearth of qualified workers. More than 90% of contractors are having a hard time finding workers in August, likely limiting the number of jobs added in the sector last month, AGC said.

“Nonresidential construction activity is growing but contractors universally report difficulty hiring as many workers as they need,” said Ken Simonson, AGC’s chief economist. “With the industry unemployment rate hovering below 4%, finding qualified applicants is sure to remain a major challenge.”

Total construction employment climbed to 7,708,000 jobs in August as both residential and nonresidential construction firms added positions for the month.

Nonresidential firms added 4,300 employees – with 700 jobs added to general building contractors and 5,600 to nonresidential specialty trade contractors. Those additions were offset by a loss of 2,000 at heavy and civil engineering construction firms.

Employment in residential construction—homebuilders, multifamily general contractors, and residential specialty trade contractors—increased by 10,900 in August.

Compared to August 2021, the construction industry has added 311,000 jobs, an increase of 4.2%. The nonresidential sector added 191,600 of the total annual job gain, an increase of 4.4% year-on-year (YoY). Meanwhile, residential construction firms added 118,700 jobs YoY through August, a 4% rise.

The unemployment rate among jobseekers with construction experience fell from 4.6% to 3.9% YoY in August, Simonson noted.

He said the low unemployment rate is consistent with AGC’s recent survey, which found that 93% of responding firms had open positions. Of those firms, 91% report having a hard time filling hourly craft positions.

Association officials noted that one of the main causes of workforce shortages is due to fewer people being exposed to the opportunities available in the industry and a lack of basic, essential skills.

Nearly 80% of contractors report there are few workers available that meet the minimum qualification standards, including being able to pass a drug test – an insurance requirement.

“Public officials need to boost funding for construction-focused training programs to expose more workers to the opportunities that exist in the industry,” Simonson added. “The industry has the work; it just needs the workers.”

By David Schollaert,

David Schollaert

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