Construction employment expanded in 224 metro areas from November 2013 to November 2014, according to the Associated General Contractors of America. The AGC also reported that construction employment declined in 64 areas and was stagnant in 51 for the same period. Association officials said contractors in many parts of the country were benefitting from growing demand, yet labor shortages threaten to undermine the sector's recovery.
"It is good news that construction employment is now rising in two-thirds of the nation's metro areas," said Ken Simonson, chief economist for the association. "But now that the unemployment rate for construction workers has fallen to a seven-year low, it has become a major challenge to find qualified workers in many fields."
The area of Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX, added the largest number of construction jobs in the past year (16,200 jobs, 9%), followed by Dallas-Plano-Irving, TX; Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL; and Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA. The largest percentage gains occurred in Pascagoula, MS (24%, 1,500 jobs), followed by Fargo, ND; Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin, FL; and York-Hanover, PA.
The largest job losses from November 2013 to November 2014 were in Bethesda-Rockville-Frederick, MD (-3,600 jobs, -11%), followed by Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, AZ; Edison-New Brunswick NJ; Gary, IN; and Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL. The largest percentage decline for the past year was in the area of Steubenville, OH and Weirton, WV; followed by Cheyenne, WY; Fond du Lac, WI; and Gary, IN.
Association officials noted that most contractors report they are having a hard time finding qualified workers to fill key positions as demand rebounds. They cautioned that if labor conditions get even tighter, contractors will have to pass on new projects, and possibly delay existing ones, because of a lack of workers. AGC found that 25% of contractors reported over the summer they were already declining to bid on certain projects because of the lack of available workers.
"It is time to start rebuilding the once robust career and technical education programs that used to exist in most school districts around the country," said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's chief executive officer. "Without a solid network for preparing future workers, we are likely to spend much of 2015 talking about how the construction industry is failing to keep up with demand."
To view construction employment figures by state, go here.