Construction employment increased in 42 states and the District of Columbia in May 2023 from May 2022, while only 24 states added construction jobs from April to May, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released by the Associated General Contractors of America on June 16. Association officials said firms are struggling to find new workers amid a lack of funding for construction education programs, keeping monthly employment gains lower in many parts of the country.
“Contractors remain busy nationwide, with bulging order books for future work,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “But they are having trouble filling job openings when the industry unemployment rate is only 3.5 percent. That probably accounts for the recent lack of job gains in many states.”
Between May 2022 and 2023, 42 states and Washington, D.C. added construction jobs, while industry employment declined in seven states and held steady in Vermont. Texas added the most jobs over the year (21,100 jobs, 2.7 percent), followed by New York (12,900 jobs, 3.3 percent), Ohio (8,400 jobs, 3.6 percent) and Oregon (8,000 jobs, 7 percent).
Arkansas had the largest percentage increase (10.2 percent, 5,800 jobs), followed by Nebraska (7.8 percent, 4,400 jobs), Oregon, Nevada (6.3 percent, 6,600 jobs) and Idaho (6.3 percent, 4,100 jobs). Colorado lost the most jobs (-1,800 jobs, -1 percent), followed by Connecticut (-1,600 jobs, -2.6 percent) and Missouri (-1,200 jobs, -0.9 percent). Connecticut had the largest percentage loss, followed by South Dakota (-1.6 percent, -400 jobs) and West Virginia (-1.3 percent, -400 jobs).
For the month, construction employment increased in 24 states, declined in 22 states, and was flat in four states and Washington, D.C. California added the most jobs over the month (6,500 jobs, 0.7 percent), followed by Virginia (2,600 jobs, 1.2 percent), Georgia (1,800 jobs, 0.8 percent) and Louisiana (1,700 jobs, 1.3 percent). The largest percentage gains occurred in Louisiana, followed by Virginia, Arkansas (1.1 percent, 700 jobs), New Mexico (1.0 percent, 500 jobs) and New Hampshire (1 percent, 300 jobs).
Indiana experienced the largest decline in construction jobs in May (-2,500 jobs, -1.5 percent), followed by Illinois (-2,400 jobs, -1 percent) and North Carolina (-2,400 jobs, -0.9 percent). Rhode Island had the largest percentage loss for the month (-4.9 percent, -1,100 jobs), followed by South Dakota (-2.7 percent, -700 jobs).
Association officials said the biggest challenge to recruiting new workers is that relatively few people are exposed to construction as a career opportunity while they are in school. That is because the federal government invests only 20 cents in career and technical education programs, including construction education, for every dollar it invests in encouraging students to go to college and work in the service sector. They urged federal officials to boost funding for construction education programs.
“Many more people would likely be working in high-paying construction careers today if they had a chance to learn about the profession when they were in school,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Showing students that you can work in a team, earn a great living and build projects that will last for decades will encourage more people to pursue careers in construction.”