Construction employment grew in 244, or 68 percent, out of 358 metro areas between September 2018 and September 2019, declined in 61 and was unchanged in 53, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released Oct. 30 by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials said that despite the widespread job gains, the association's recent survey found 80 percent of contractors say hourly craftworker positions remain difficult to fill.
"Even though construction firms in over two-thirds of the nation's metro areas were able to add employees in the last year, our survey suggests employers in still more locations would have done so if they could find more qualified workers to hire," said Ken Simonson, the association's chief economist. "Job openings at construction have been at record levels in recent months, showing that contractors are still eager to hire."
The Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas metro area added the most construction jobs during the past year (15,000 jobs, 10 percent). Other metro areas adding a large amount of construction jobs during the past 12 months include Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Ariz. (12,400 jobs, 10 percent); Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif. (10,700 jobs, 7 percent); Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas (7,900 jobs, 4 percent) and Nassau County-Suffolk County, N.Y. (7,500 jobs, 9 percent). The largest percentage gain occurred in Pocatello, Idaho (17 percent, 300 jobs), followed by Omaha-Council Bluffs, Neb.-Iowa (16 percent, 4,900 jobs); Auburn-Opelika, Ala. (15 percent, 400 jobs) and Spokane-Spokane Valley, Wash. (15 percent, 2,300 jobs). Construction employment reached a new September high in 64 metro areas and a new September low in three areas.
The largest job losses between September 2018 and September 2019 occurred in New York City (minus 3,600 jobs, minus 2 percent), followed by Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, N.C. (minus 3,400 jobs, minus 5 percent); Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights, Ill. (minus 3,100 jobs minus 2 percent) and Baton Rouge, La. (minus 2,300 jobs, minus 4 percent). The largest percentage decrease took place in Longview, Texas (minus 11 percent, minus 1,600 jobs), followed by Fairbanks, Alaska (minus 9 percent, minus 300 jobs); Gulfport-Biloxi-Pascagoula, Miss. (minus 8 percent, minus 600 jobs); Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, Conn. (minus 8 percent, minus 1,600 jobs) and Evansville, Ind. (minus 8 percent, minus 800 jobs).
Association officials said their survey documents that many firms are boosting pay and benefits, investing in more training programs and adopting new technologies and new techniques to improve efficiency. Nevertheless, many firms report they are proposing longer construction schedules and charging more for projects because of labor shortages. That is why association officials are continuing to push Congress and the Trump administration to boost funding for career and technical education, pass comprehensive immigration reform and make it easier for construction students to qualify for federal Pell Grants.
"Our economy will continue to suffer without new measures to attract more people into high-paying construction jobs," said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's chief executive officer. "Construction firms are taking aggressive steps to address labor shortages, but federal officials can help by boosting funding for career and technical education and passing needed immigration reforms."
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