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Construction Employment Hits Five-Year High

Construction industry employment reached a five-year high in August as the sector added 20,000 jobs and its unemployment rate fell to 7.7%, the lowest rate for August in seven years, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). However, AGC cautioned that the latest figures reinforce survey results it released recently, which showed that many contractors are having a tough time finding enough qualified workers.

“Construction employment growth has been accelerating and is broad-based,” said Ken Simonson, AGC’s chief economist. “The increase in the past 12 months was the largest since 2006 and was spread among residential, nonresidential building and heavy construction.”

Construction employment totaled 6,068,000 in August, the highest total since May 2009, with a 12-month gain of 232,000 jobs or 4%, more than double the 1.8% growth rate for total nonfarm employment, Simonson noted. The number of workers who said they looked for work in the past month and had last worked in construction fell to 678,000 in August. That was lower than in any August since 2007, when many contractors were forced to delay projects because they couldn’t find qualified workers.

“These job numbers, along with data this week on construction spending in July and reports from the Federal Reserve and the Institute of Supply Management, point to continued recovery by the construction sector,” he said. “However, the fact that the number of unemployed experienced construction workers is now at the lowest August level since 2007 means more contractors may soon have trouble filling key positions.”

AGC is urging elected officials to act on the measures the association outlined in its Workforce Development Plan to make it easier to establish career and technical education and training programs.

“As contractors are starting to find it is easier to get work, it is becoming increasingly difficult to hire qualified workers,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, AGC’s CEO. “We need to make it easier for schools, local associations and private firms to establish programs that expose students to, and prepare them for, high-paying careers in construction.”


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