Construction employment increased in 246 or 69 percent of 358 metro areas between August 2021 and August 2022, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America of new government employment data. But association officials noted the job gains likely would have been higher if firms could find more qualified people to hire and train.
“While roughly two-thirds of metro areas added construction jobs in the past year, the number would be still higher if contractors could find enough qualified workers,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “The record number of construction job openings and ultra-low unemployment rate for workers with construction experience are signs of an ever-tighter labor market.”
The unemployment rate for jobseekers with construction experience declined to 3.9 percent in August from 4.6 percent a year earlier, Simonson noted. He added that there were 393,000 job openings in construction at the end of July, the highest July total in the 22-year history of the government data.
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas added the most construction jobs (33,500 jobs or 16 percent), followed by Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Wash. (8,800 jobs, 8 percent) and Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif. (8,300 jobs, 6 percent). The largest percentage gains were in Muskegon, Mich. (20 percent, 750 jobs) and Bloomington, Ill. (20 percent, 600 jobs), followed by Danville, Ill. (17 percent, 100 jobs).
Construction jobs declined over the year in 57 metro areas and were unchanged in 55 areas. The largest loss occurred in Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Fla. (-5,500 jobs, -7 percent), followed by Richmond, Va. (-3,500 jobs, -8 percent) and Austin-Round Rock, Texas (-2,800 jobs, -4 percent). The largest percentage declines occurred in Richmond; Charleston, W. Va. (-8 percent, -500 jobs); and Ithaca, N.Y. (-8 percent, -100 jobs).
Association officials said the construction industry was taking a range of steps to recruit, prepare and retain new workers, including using digital advertising and creating new tools designed to make construction job sites more welcoming and inclusive. They urged federal officials to boost funding for construction education programs, however, to expose more students to construction career opportunities.
“It makes more sense to boost investments in education programs that lead to high paying careers instead of forgiving college loans for workers making less than their education cost,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Federal officials should be preparing students for the good jobs that exist, instead of paying them to pursue jobs that don’t.”