The U.S. construction industry added 28,000 jobs in August, but contractors expressed difficulties finding experienced workers.
According to reports by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Associated General Contractors of America, last month’s employment gains followed a hiring dip in July. The construction industry has added 214,000 jobs since the start of the year, including 129,000 jobs in specialty trades.
The number of unemployed individuals whose last job was in construction fell to 448,000, the lowest August total since 2000.
“Construction firms have stayed busy, adding employees in the past year at nearly twice the rate of employers throughout the economy, but more than two-thirds of contractors report[ed] difficulty finding craft workers as the number of unemployed, experienced construction workers hit a 17-year low,” AGC’s Chief Economist Ken Simonson said in a press statement. “Although construction spending has fluctuated recently, many contractors are still looking for qualified craft workers and project managers.”
An industry-wide survey in August found that 70 percent of contractor firms had difficulty finding qualified craft workers. Forty-three percent of those surveyed expect hiring will continue to be difficult over the next 12 months.
“Half or more of the 1,608 respondents said they were having trouble finding carpenters, bricklayers, electricians, concrete workers or plumbers,” Simonson noted. “Some salaried positions — notably project managers and supervisors — are also hard to fill.”
Trade association officials have urged leaders at all levels of government to take steps that help recruit and prepare more young adults for high-paying construction careers, including increased funding for technical education programs.
“Exposing students to construction as a career path will encourage more of them to pursue these high-paying careers,” AGC’s Chief Executive Officer Stephen Sandherr said.
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