The construction sector added 15,000 jobs in April while the sector’s unemployment rate fell to a record-low for the month and the number of unfilled construction positions is close to a monthly high, according to an analysis of new government data the Associated General Contractors of America released May 5. Association officials said the industry likely would have added even more positions if contractors could find more qualified workers.
“Contractors can’t find, reach, hire and train workers fast enough to keep pace with demand,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “The pool of qualified, available labor is the smallest the industry has ever seen for the month of April.”
Construction employment in April totaled 7,903,000, seasonally adjusted, an addition of 15,000, or 0.2 percent, from the month prior. Nonresidential construction firms — nonresidential building and specialty trade contractors along with heavy and civil engineering construction firms — added only 800 employees in April. Meanwhile, employment at residential building and specialty trade contractors grew by 14,200, or 0.4 percent.
The unemployment rate among job seekers with construction experience declined from 4.6 percent in April 2022 to 4.1 percent, the lowest April rate in the 23-year history of the data. A separate government report released earlier this week reported that job openings in construction at the end of March totaled 355,000, just shy of the all-time high for March of 359,000.
Average hourly earnings for production and nonsupervisory employees in construction — covering most on-site craft workers as well as many office workers — jumped by 6.7 percent over the year to $33.94 per hour. Construction firms in April provided a wage “premium” of nearly 19 percent compared to the average hourly earnings for all private-sector production employees.
Association officials noted that the industry is struggling to recruit workers at a time when the federal government spends five dollars to encourage students to go to college and work in service sector professions for every dollar it invests in career and technical education. They urged public officials to boost funding for construction education and training and to explore short-term measures, like immigration reform, to address severe labor shortages.
“Federal officials are making massive investments in infrastructure even while their funding policies actively discourage most future workers from considering careers in construction,” Sandherr said. “They don’t seem to want our citizens to work in construction even while they block people from other countries from lawfully entering the profession.”