Strong demand for construction projects fueled job growth in November in 38 states compared to October and in all but six states over the past 12 months, according to the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials said, however, that the shortage of available workers was likely keeping firms from expanding headcounts even more rapidly in many parts of the country.
"In nearly every state, contractors are busier now than a year ago," said Ken Simonson, chief economist for the association. "Employment is up, but the industry would be expanding even more rapidly if contractors could find enough qualified workers."
Nationally, construction employment climbed by 4.2% from November 2014 to November 2015 — more than double the rate for total nonfarm employment, Simonson noted. He added that construction spending rose 13% in the latest 12 months, suggesting a need for even more workers. He cautioned that filling those openings may be difficult in many states because the number of unemployed jobseekers in November who last worked in construction was at the lowest November level in 15 years.
Between November 2014 and November 2015, 44 states and the District of Columbia added construction jobs, with California adding the most (41,000 jobs, 5.9%). Other states adding a high number of new construction jobs for the past 12 months include New York, Florida, and Colorado. Hawaii added the highest percentage of new construction jobs during the past year (12.5%, 3,900 jobs), closely followed by Nevada, South Dakota, Arkansas, and Idaho.
Six states shed construction jobs during the past 12 months. West Virginia lost the highest percentage and total number of construction jobs (-14.5%, -4,600 jobs). Other states that lost jobs for the year include Rhode Island, North Dakota, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Maine.
Florida added the most construction jobs between October and November (10,600 jobs, 2.5%). Other states adding a high number of construction jobs include New York, Texas, and Massachusetts. South Dakota added the highest percentage of construction jobs during the past month (5.6%, 1,300 jobs), followed by Iowa, Massachusetts, and Vermont.
A dozen states lost construction jobs during the past month while construction employment was unchanged in the District of Columbia. Pennsylvania shed more construction jobs than any other state (-4,600 jobs, -1.9%), followed by North Carolina, Kansas, Illinois, North Dakota, and Arkansas. Delaware (-3.6%, -800 jobs) and North Dakota lost the highest percentage of construction jobs between October and November, followed by Arkansas, Kansas, North Carolina, and West Virginia.
Association officials said many firms report that some positions are going unfilled because of the broad shortage of qualified workers. They said the steps outlined in the association's Workforce Development Plan, like increasing investments in career and technical education programs, will allow firms to keep pace with growing demand.
"Even more people would be working in construction today if we had a better pipeline for preparing new workers," said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's CEO. View employment data by state.