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Lack of Trained Workers Threatens Further Job Gains, AGC Warns 

Tue June 26, 2018 - National Edition

May 2018 Metro Construction Employment 12-Month Change
(ACC photo)
May 2018 Metro Construction Employment 12-Month Change (ACC photo)

Construction employment increased in 263 (73 percent) out of 358 metro areas between May 2017 and May 2018, declined in 47 (13 percent) and was unchanged in 48, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released June 26 by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials warned that the supply of qualified workers is dwindling and urged members of Congress to support proposed legislation to reform, and increase funding for, the federal career and technical education program.

“The growth of industry employment in so many locations is good news, but it also highlights the challenge contractors face in finding qualified workers,” said Ken Simonson, the association's chief economist. “As more cities hit new highs in construction employment and new lows in unemployment, the risk is growing that some projects will be delayed for lack of workers.”

Construction employment in 63 areas was at a record high for May, in a history dating back to 1990 in most locations, the association's analysis showed. Nationally, the unemployment rate for jobseekers with prior construction experience was at the lowest May level since that series began in 2000, the economist noted.

The Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas metro area added the most construction jobs during the past year (14,200 jobs, 10 percent), followed by Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Ariz. (11,500 jobs, 10 percent); Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas (11,400 jobs, 5 percent); Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, Ga. (9,200 jobs, 8 percent) and New York City, N.Y. (8,000 jobs, 5 percent). The largest percentage gains — 29 percent each — occurred in Merced, Calif. (700 jobs) and Midland, Texas (7,800 jobs). There also were large percentage increases in construction employment in Atlantic City-Hammonton, N.J. (20 percent, 1,100 jobs); New Bedford, Mass. (19 percent, 500 jobs) and Weirton-Steubenville, W.Va.-Ohio (19 percent, 300 jobs).

The largest job losses from May 2017 to May 2018 were in Newark, N.J.-Pa. (minus 3,900 jobs, minus 8 percent), followed by Middlesex-Monmouth-Ocean, N.J. (minus 3,300 jobs, minus 8 percent); Columbia, S.C. (minus 2,300 jobs, minus 11 percent); Camden, N.J. (minus 2,100 jobs, minus 9 percent) and Nashville-Davidson—Murfreesboro—Franklin, Tenn. (minus 1,900 jobs, minus 4 percent). The largest percentage decreases for the year were in Bloomington, Ill. (minus 14 percent, minus 500 jobs), followed by Columbia, S.C., Hanford-Corcoran, Calif. (minus 10 percent, minus 100 jobs); Pocatello, Idaho (minus 10 percent, minus 200 jobs); and Camden, N.J.

Association officials urged Congress to enact proposed legislation to reform and increase funding for federal career and technical education programs, known as the Perkins Act. They noted that the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee is marking up the legislation today with strong support from both Republicans and Democrats.

“Construction firms in many parts of the country report they would likely add even more workers if they could find more qualified candidates,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's chief executive officer. “Passing this new version of the Perkins Act will make it easier for educators to expose young adults to high-paying construction careers opportunities and lead to more hiring in many parts of the country.”

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