The construction industry added 8,000 jobs in September for its highest level since 2008, but could have hired even more if qualified workers were available, said the Associated General Contractors of America.
Construction unemployment was 4.7 percent in September, its lowest September rate since 2000, said AGC. Average hourly earnings have increased 3 percent from last year to $29.19, nearly 10 percent more than the average nonfarm private sector job in the U.S.
An August survey showed that firms are still having a hard time finding enough qualified craft workers to hire. Career and technical programs are needed to expose young people to high-paying careers in construction, said AGC. The association urged the Senate to pass the Perkins Act that will boost funding for training programs.
"There are a lot of under-employed Americans who would be much better off working in construction, instead of doing shift work for little more than minimum wage," said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's chief executive officer. "It is time to stop stigmatizing jobs like construction just because they require workers to use their hands as well as their brains."
Construction employment totaled 6,911,000 in September, a gain of 8,000 jobs for the month and 184,000, or 2.7 percent, over 12 months. The year-over-year growth rate in industry jobs was more than double the 1.2 percent rise in total nonfarm payroll employment, said Ken Simonson, the association's chief economist. He cautioned that employment figures for both the construction industry and the total were likely distorted in September by temporary impacts from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
Residential construction—comprising residential building and specialty trade contractors—shed 7,200 jobs in September but added 80,600 jobs, or 3.1 percent, over the past 12 months. Nonresidential construction (building, specialty trades, and heavy and civil engineering construction) employment increased by 11,700 jobs in September and jumped 2.5 percent over the past 12 months.