New York and North Dakota Add the Most Jobs, While Pennsylvania and Louisiana Have Largest Decreases;
Open Positions at End of September Exceeds Total Number of Employees Hired During the Entire Month
Construction employment climbed in 27 states from September to October, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released by the Associated General Contractors of America today. Association officials said, however, that many more contractors would have added employees if qualified applicants were available citing data showing a surge in construction job openings. They urged federal officials to take steps – like immigration reform and boosting investments in training and education – to get more people into the construction workforce.
“Although barely half of states added workers in October, government data on job openings and hires show contractors were eager to add employees,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “The shortfall in available workers is undermining job gains and causing delays and higher costs for many projects.”
There were 412,000 job openings in construction at the end of September according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the most for any September since the series began in 2001, Simonson added. He noted this total exceeded the 348,000 employees hired in the entire month, implying that contractors wanted to add more than twice as many workers as they were able to find.
In October, 27 states added construction employees, 19 states lost jobs, and employment was flat in four states and the District of Columbia. New York added the most construction jobs over the month (4,500 jobs, 1.2 percent), followed by Colorado (2,600 jobs, 1.4 percent) and Utah (2,000 jobs, 1.5 percent). The largest percentage gain occurred in North Dakota (2.0 percent, 600 jobs), followed by Mississippi (1.9 percent, 900 jobs) and Nebraska (1.7 percent, 1,000 jobs).
Pennsylvania experienced the largest decline in construction jobs in October (-3,500 jobs, -1.4 percent), followed by Louisiana (-3,400 jobs, -2.7 percent) and Florida (-2,900 jobs, -1.4 percent). Louisiana had the largest percentage loss for the month, followed by Wyoming (-1.8 percent, -400 jobs) and West Virginia (-1.5 percent, -500 jobs).
Association officials noted that producer price index data released earlier this week showed the cost of construction has increased significantly during the past 12 months. They said labor shortages are one reason for that increase and urged federal officials to allow people with construction skills to lawfully enter the country to work in the sector. They also continued to push for new federal investments in construction education and training programs.
“Addressing workforce shortages will help tame rising construction costs and keep more projects on schedule,” said Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Immigration reform will provide immediate relief, but public officials must also play the long game and invest in the kind of training and education programs needed to get more workers into high-paying construction careers.”