Worker shortages rise as construction employment increases, says AGC
Construction employment expanded in 236 metro areas between September 2013 and September 2014, according to the Associated General Contractors of America. The AGC also reports that employment declined in 53 metro areas and was stagnant in 50. Association officials said that as firms expand their payrolls, many are finding a limited supply of available qualified workers.
“It is good news that construction employment gains have spread to more than two-thirds of the nation’s metro areas,” said Ken Simonson, chief economist for the association. “But there is a growing risk that contractors in many of these regions will have trouble finding qualified workers to complete the rising volume of projects.”
The area of Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX, added the largest number of construction jobs in the past year (13,500 jobs, 7%), followed by Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA; Dallas-Plano-Irving, TX; and Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL. The largest percentage gains occurred in Owensboro, KY (33%, 900 jobs), Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin, FL; Lake Charles, LA; and Pascagoula, MS.
The largest job losses from September 2013 to September 2014 were in Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, AZ (-6,900 jobs, -7%), followed by Bethesda-Rockville-Frederick, MD; Edison-New Brunswick, NJ; and Gary, IN. The largest percentage decline for the past year was in the area of Steubenville-Weirton, OH-WV (-21%, -400 jobs), followed by Gary and the region of Lewiston, ID-WA.
“The job gains have become more widespread but are still spotty,” Simonson said. He noted that employment changes can be highly localized. While the Chicago-Joliet-Naperville metro division added more jobs than all but three other areas, the adjacent Gary division had some of the largest losses. Similarly, there were large gains in Cleveland and Philadelphia but substantial job losses in nearby smaller metro areas.
Association officials noted that a recent construction industry survey it conducted found 83% of construction firms report having a hard time finding qualified craft workers. They called on federal, state, and local officials to act on the measures outlined in the association’s workforce development plan to make it easier to establish new programs designed to prepare students for high-paying careers in construction.
“Many firms that have begun expanding their payrolls are finding it hard to locate qualified workers to fill key positions,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Unless we find ways to expand training opportunities for high school students and young adults, labor shortages are likely to undermine the industry’s recovery.”
View construction employment figures by state.