According to a new analysis of federal employment data released by the Associated General Contractors of America, construction employment in March exceeded pre-pandemic levels in 32 states. Association officials said in a press release that the government should support more career opportunities to enable people to work in the industry.

“Contractors have been adding workers as fast as they can find them,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “But there just aren’t enough qualified workers available in many states, as shown by the record number of construction job openings at the end of February.”

Simonson noted that government data from the monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey show 364,000 job openings in construction at the end of February. That was the highest February total since the series began in 2001 and constituted a 52% jump in openings from one year earlier. Openings exceeded the 342,000 employees hired during that month, implying that construction firms would have added twice as many employees if they had been available, the economist asserted.

From February 2020—the month before the pandemic caused projects to be halted or canceled—to March 2022, construction employment increased in 32 states, declined in 16 states and the District of Columbia, and was unchanged in Nevada and Wyoming.

Utah added the most construction jobs since February 2020 (15,000 jobs, 13.2%), followed by Tennessee (11,400 jobs, 8.6%) and Missouri (11,300 jobs, 8.8%). Utah also had the largest percentage gain, followed by South Dakota (12.1%, 2,900 jobs) and Idaho (12.0%, 6,600 jobs).

New York shed the most construction jobs over 25 months (-29,600 jobs, -7.2%), followed by Texas (-15,300 jobs, -2.0%) and Pennsylvania (-14,200 jobs, -5.3%). The largest percentage losses were in New York, Pennsylvania, and North Dakota (-5.0%, -1,400 jobs).

From February to March, construction employment increased in 35 states, decreased in 14 states and D.C., and was unchanged in Idaho. California added the most construction jobs over the month (8,900 jobs, 1.0%), followed by Texas (4,400 jobs, 0.6%) and North Carolina (4,200 jobs, 1.8%). South Dakota had the largest percentage gain (7.1%, 1.800 jobs), followed by New Mexico (3.3%, 1,700 jobs) and Connecticut (2.1%, 1,300 jobs).

New York lost the most construction jobs between February and March (-3,700 jobs, -1.0%), followed by Colorado (-2,300 jobs, -1.2%) and Mississippi (-1,600 jobs, -3.3%). Mississippi had the largest percentage loss, followed by West Virginia (-1.8%, -600 jobs), and Wyoming (-1.7%, -400 jobs).

Association officials said a lack of workers is delaying vitally needed projects. They urged officials in Washington to increase funding for career and technical education and allow more apprenticeship programs.

“Contractors are eager to hire more workers,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “The federal government must expand opportunities for appropriate education and training programs.”