Strong demand for construction projects fueled job growth in Nov. in 38 states compared to Oct. and in all but six states over the past 12 months, according to analysis of Labor Department data released recently by 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 percent from Nov. 2014 to Nov. 2015—more than double the rate for total nonfarm employment, Simonson noted. He added out that construction spending rose 13 percent 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 Nov. who last worked in construction was at the lowest Nov. level in 15 years.
Between Nov. 2014 and Nov. 2015, 44 states and the District of Columbia added construction jobs, with California adding the most (41,000 jobs, 5.9 percent). Other states adding a high number of new construction jobs for the past 12 months include New York (30,500 jobs, 8.9 percent), Florida (29,300 jobs, 7.2 percent) and Colorado (12,000 jobs, 8.3 percent). Hawaii added the highest percentage of new construction jobs during the past year (12.5 percent, 3,900 jobs), closely followed by Nevada (12.3 percent, 7,800 jobs), South Dakota (12.3 percent, 2,700 jobs), Arkansas (12.0 percent, 5,600 jobs) and Idaho (11.4 percent, 4,200 jobs).
Six states shed construction jobs during the past 12 months. West Virginia lost the highest percentage and total number of construction jobs (-14.5 percent, -4,600 jobs). Other states that lost jobs for the year include Rhode Island (-6.7 percent, -1,100 jobs), North Dakota (-4.4 percent, -1,600 jobs), New Mexico (-0.7 percent, -300 jobs), Pennsylvania (-0.6 percent, -1,500 jobs) and Maine (-0.4 percent, -100 jobs).
Florida added the most construction jobs between October and November (10,600 jobs, 2.5 percent). Other states adding a high number of construction jobs include New York (9,100 jobs, 2.5 percent), Texas (9,000 jobs, 1.3 percent) and Massachusetts (4,800 jobs, 3.6 percent). South Dakota added the highest percentage of construction jobs during the past month (5.6 percent, 1,300 jobs), followed by Iowa (4.6 percent, 3,700 jobs), Massachusetts and Vermont (3.5 percent, 500 jobs).
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 percent), followed by North Carolina (-4,200 jobs, -2.2 percent), Kansas (-1,500 jobs, -2.3 percent), Illinois (-1,500 jobs, -0.7 percent), North Dakota (-1,300 jobs, -3.6 percent) and Arkansas (-1,300 jobs -2.4 percent). Delaware (-3.6 percent, -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 (-2.2 percent, -600 jobs).
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.