Forty-three states and the District of Columbia added construction jobs between December 2017 and December 2018, while 36 states added construction jobs between November and December, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America of Labor Department data released. Association officials cautioned that growing labor shortages and trade disputes were leading to higher construction costs.
"The construction industry ended 2018 in good shape in nearly all parts of the country, and contractors are optimistic about the volume of work available in 2019," stated chief economist Ken Simonson. "But finding workers to execute those projects is likely to be a major challenge."
Nearly four out of five construction firms expect to add employees in 2019, the economist said, based on the 2019 Construction Hiring and Business Outlook Survey that the association conducted with Sage and released on January 2. At the same time, 78 percent of the survey's 1,312 respondents said their firm was have a hard time filling positions, and two-thirds of the respondents reported they expect it will as hard or harder to hire workers in 2019.
The economist noted that job openings in construction totaled 285,000 at the end of November, the highest November level in the 18 years that the Labor Department has published the series. The number of unemployed jobseekers with recent construction experience—375,000—was the lowest yet for that month. Together, these figures suggest contractors in many states cannot find experienced workers to fill vacancies, Simonson said.
Texas added the most construction jobs in 2018 (46,800 jobs, 6.4 percent), followed by. Other states adding a large number of construction jobs in 2018 include Florida (34,900 jobs, 6.7 percent), California (21,700 jobs, 2.6 percent), Georgia (21,500 jobs, 11.3 percent) and Arizona (18,900 jobs, 12.5 percent). Connecticut added the highest percentage of construction jobs in 2018 (16.9 percent, 9,700 jobs), followed by Wyoming (14.9 percent, 2,900 jobs), Arizona, Nevada (12.3 percent, 10,600 jobs), North Dakota (11.6 percent, 2,900 jobs) and Georgia. Construction employment reached a record high in five states: Nebraska, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon and Texas.
Six states shed construction jobs in 2018, while construction employment was unchanged in Mississippi. The largest decline occurred in South Carolina (-5,100 jobs, -5.0 percent), followed by Hawaii (-1,800 jobs, -4.8 percent) and Missouri (-1,200 jobs, -1.0 percent). South Carolina had the steepest percentage job loss for the year, followed by Hawaii, Alaska (-2.5 percent, -400 jobs) and Maine (-2.1 percent, -600 jobs).
Among the 36 states with one-month job gains between November and December, Florida had the largest pickup (6,100 jobs, 1.1 percent), followed by Texas (4,500 jobs, 0.6 percent), Indiana (3,900 jobs, 2.7 percent) and Georgia (2,700 jobs, 1.3 percent). South Dakota added the highest percentage of construction jobs for the month (4.9 percent, 1,200 jobs), followed by Rhode Island (4.1 percent, 800 jobs), Connecticut (3.3 percent, 2,100 jobs) and Indiana.
Construction employment decreased from November to December in 11 states and was unchanged in Alaska, Idaho, New Hampshire and D.C. Iowa lost the largest number and percentage of construction jobs (-1,900 jobs, -2.3 percent). Two states each lost 1,300 jobs: Massachusetts (-0.8 percent) and California (-0.2 percent). Maine had the second-steepest percentage loss (-2.1 percent, -600 jobs), followed by North Dakota (-1.1 percent, -300 jobs).
Association officials said the higher cost of projects could dampen future private and public sector demand. They urged Washington officials to increase funding for career and technical education and to quickly resolve trade disputes. "While demand remains strong for now, there is a real chance that higher construction costs will make new projects less viable," said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's chief executive officer. "Getting more people into high-paying construction careers and easing trade disputes will help keep construction costs in check."