The Associated General Contractors of America’s recent analysis of government employment data shows construction employment increased in two-thirds of U.S. metro areas between April 2021 and April 2022. Association officials noted that a lack of qualified workers kept employment down in many metro areas.

“Contractors are eager to hire more workers but the pool of experienced jobseekers barely exists,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “As a result, employment gains have stalled in too many metros.”

The unemployment rate for job seekers with construction experience fell from 7.7% in April 2021 to 4.6 percent in April 2022, the lowest April rate since the series began in 2000, the economist noted. He said this indicated a scarcity of qualified workers available to hire in many metro areas.

The government’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey showed that there were 415,000 job openings in construction at the end of March—the largest total for that month in the 22-year history of the survey, Simonson observed. Openings exceeded the 388,000 employees hired in March, which suggests that the construction firms would have added twice as many employees if they had been available, the economist asserted.

The association reports that construction employment rose in 235—or 66%—of 358 metro areas over the 12-month period. The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas, added the most construction jobs (13,000 jobs, or 6%), followed by Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas (9,200 jobs, 6%); St. Louis, Mo.-Ill. (5,400 jobs, 8%); and Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Wash. (5,400 jobs, 5%). Cheyenne, Wyo., had the highest percentage gain (32%, 1,100 jobs), followed by Decatur, Ill. (25%, 800 jobs) and Norwich-New London-Westerly, Conn.-R.I. (21%, 800 jobs).

Construction employment declined in 62 metro areas from April 2021 and was unchanged in 61 areas. The largest losses were in Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Fla. (-3,800 jobs, -5%) followed by New York City (-2,100 or -1%), and Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Min.-Wis. (-1,500 jobs, -2%). The largest percentage declines were in Lewiston, Idaho-Wash. (-17%, -300 jobs); Niles-Benton Harbor, Mich. (-13%, -300 jobs); and Gadsden, Ala. (-9%, -100 jobs).

Association officials said attracting more people into high-paying construction careers is essential to getting more people into the industry. They urged state and local officials to boost investments in programs that expose young adults and current workers to construction skills and career opportunities. They called on federal officials to boost investments in career and technical education.

“Construction is one of the few career options that pays well and does not require people to amass student debt,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Exposing more people to construction careers is a good way to avoid college debt, boost economic activity and get people employed.”