Feb 04, 2019
Construction Employment Climbs to 11-year Peak
Gather ’round for a bit of good news (and some not so good news)! Construction employment has climbed to an 11-year high. In January, the construction industry increased by 52,000 jobs and by 338,000 jobs (or 4.7 percent) over the past year.
According to an analysis of new government data by the Associated General Contractors of America, construction spending also showed moderate increases in all major categories. Year-to-date spending rose by 3.9 percent for residential construction, 3.5 percent for private nonresidential construction and 7.0 percent for public construction.
“Even though the industry added employees at more than double the pace of the overall economy in the past year, the average workweek in construction reached an all-time high and unemployment in construction hit a series low, indicating that contractors would hire even more workers if they were available,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist.
Average weekly hours in the industry increased to 39.9 hours in January, the highest since the series began in 2006, the economist noted. Average weekly hours of production and nonsupervisory employees, a series that dates back to 1947 and covers construction trades, set a record of 40.6 hours, Simonson added.
This accompanies a lower unemployment rate of 6.4 percent in January 2019 compared to 7.3 percent in January 2018.
“In a survey the association released in January, more contractors reported they expect the dollar volume of projects available to bid on to expand than to shrink in 2019 in each of 13 project categories,” reads AGCA’s announcement of the survey. “In addition, 79 percent of construction firms reported that they expect to add employees in 2019. However, nearly as many—78 percent—reported they were having trouble filling some positions and 68 percent said they expected that hiring would remain difficult or become harder.”
To resolve these issues, the association has urged government officials to strengthen career and technical education programs and facilitate immigration for workers with construction skills before a worker shortage stalls completion of needed infrastructure.