Construction firms added 16,000 jobs in August, according to an analysis of federal employment data released on Sept. 2 by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials said their newly released survey, conducted with Autodesk, showed contractors are eager to hire more employees but are being stymied by a dearth of qualified workers.
“Nonresidential construction activity is growing, but contractors universally report difficulty hiring as many workers as they need,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “With the industry unemployment rate hovering below 4%, finding qualified applicants is sure to remain a major challenge.”
Total construction employment climbed to 7,708,000 in August as both residential and nonresidential construction firms added jobs for the month. Nonresidential firms added 4,300 employees, as gains of 700 jobs at general building contractors and 5,600 at nonresidential specialty trade contractors offset a loss of 2,000 at heavy and civil engineering construction firms. Employment in residential construction—homebuilders, multifamily general contractors and residential specialty trade contractors—increased by 10,900 in August.
Compared to August 2021, the construction industry has added 311,000 jobs, an increase of 4.2 percent. The nonresidential sector added 191,600 of those yearly job gains, an increase of 4.4 percent. Meanwhile, residential construction firms added 118,700 jobs between August 2021 and August 2022, an increase of 4 percent.
The unemployment rate among job seekers with construction experience fell from 4.6 percent in August 2021 to 3.9 percent in August 2022, Simonson noted. He said the low unemployment rate is consistent with the association’s recent survey, which found that 93 percent of responding firms had open positions. Of those firms, 91 percent report having a hard time filling hourly craft positions, Simonson added.
Association officials noted that one of the main causes of workforce shortages is the fact that few people are being exposed to the opportunities available in the industry and lack basic, essential skills. Seventy-seven percent of contractors report there are few workers available that meet the minimum qualification standards, including being able to pass a drug test, which is something insurance companies require for all workers in the industry.
“Public officials need to boost funding for construction-focused training programs to expose more workers to the opportunities that exist in the industry,” Simonson added. “The industry has the work; it just needs the workers.”