The construction industry added 25,000 employees in January month over month (MoM), while boosting wages for hourly workers vs. competing industries in a bid to attract more workers, the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) said in a statement.
The industry was benefiting from relatively strong demand for construction projects as firms still struggle to fill available positions in the sector, the report, released Feb. 3, said. US Labor Department data shows firms would have added significantly more workers if they were available.
“Construction employment and pay gains outpaced the economy as a whole in the past year, showing that demand for projects remains strong,” said Ken Simonson, AGC’s chief economist. “In fact, most contractors would like to hire even more workers and are raising pay in an effort to attract them.”
Construction employment totaled a record-high 7,884000 in January, up 25,000 for the month, and 294,000, or 3.9%, vs. the same year-ago period.
Nonresidential firms—including nonresidential building and specialty trade contractors, along with heavy and civil engineering construction firms— added 19,300 employees in January and 179,200 employees, or 4%, over 12 months. Residential building and specialty trade contractors together added 5,500 employees for the month and 114,600 employees, or 3.6%, over the past year.
Pay levels in the industry continued to increase at a faster pace than in the overall private sector in January. Average hourly earnings for production and nonsupervisory construction workers climbed 6.2% to $33.38 last month from $32.94 a year earlier. That increase exceeded the 5.1% rise in average pay for all private-sector production workers.
Such construction workers now earn an average of 18.1% more per hour than in the private sector, the report said.
A separate job openings report from the Labor Department showed 359,000 positions remained unfilled in the sector at the end of December. the highest December total in the 23-year history of the data. AGC said the excess job openings “reinforced contractors’ reports that they are seeking far more workers than they have been able to hire, despite the industry’s large job gains over the past year. “
AGC said that 80% of firms in the association’s recent survey reported having a hard time finding qualified workers to hire. As a result, AGC has urged federal officials to allow more people with construction skills to lawfully enter the country to work in the industry and to boost funding and support for all construction-focused education and training programs.
“Construction firms are doing everything in their power to recruit even more people into the industry,” said Stephen Sandherr, AGC’s CEO. “Closing a federal funding gap that puts $5 into college-track programs for every dollar spent on career and technical education will help expose many more workers to high-paying career opportunities in fields like construction.”
By David Schollaert, firstname.lastname@example.org
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