The construction industry received some more good news in the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America’s latest analysis of new government data.
According to the AGC, the industry’s unemployment rate dropped to the lowest April level in seven years as contractors added 32,000 workers to payrolls in April, bringing industry employment to 6.0 million, the highest level since June.
“It is heartening that all categories of construction employers added workers, not only in April but over the past 12 months,” says AGC chief economist Ken Simonson. “Moreover, contractors have been adding to workers’ hours as well as hiring more employees,”
Construction employment totaled 6 million in April, a gain of 189,000 or 3.3 percent from a year earlier, while aggregate hours worked rose even more—3.8 percent, Simonson notes. Residential building and specialty trade contractors added a combined total of 13,100 workers in April and 107,900 (5.0 percent) over 12 months. Nonresidential construction—building, specialty trades and heavy and civil engineering contractors—grew by 18,600 employees last month and 81,300 (2.2 percent) since April 2013.
“There is a limit to how much overtime workers can put in, and companies will be seeking to expand employment even faster if the volume of projects continues to grow,” adds Simonson. “But the huge drop in the number of unemployed former construction workers may make it harder to keep adding employees.”
Association officials say a sharp drop in the number of secondary-level construction training programs over the past several years has contributed to a decline in new entrants to the industry to replace retiring workers. They urged federal, state and local officials to adopt measures to help schools, construction firms and local trade associations to start and expand training programs for future construction workers.
“If elected and appointed officials don’t act soon to improve the quantity and quality of training opportunities for future workers, many construction employers will struggle to find the workers they need,” says Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “It would be tragic if the construction industry can’t fill good-paying jobs because of a lack of trained recruits.”