Construction Employment Growing Faster Than Broader Economy

Despite a slowing rate of growth in September, employment in the construction industry grew faster than the broader economy over the last year.

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According to a new report from the Associated General Contractors of America, employment in the construction industry grew by 156,000 jobs from September 2018 to September 2019. That’s good for a 2.1 percent growth rate over the last twelve months, while employment in the broader economy increased at a lower rate of 1.4 percent.

Industry officials say that the main thing keeping construction employment from being even higher is a lack of qualified workers available to hire.

“Contractors foresee plenty of projects to bid on, and nearly three-fourths of firms expect to add workers during the next twelve months, but most are finding it hard to find qualified workers to hire,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist.

The AGC recently published a study in which 80 percent of the 1,935 construction companies said that they are finding it difficult to fill hourly positions. After adding 7,000 jobs last month, the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the unemployment rate in the construction industry currently sitting at 3.2 percent, still lower than the national rate of 3.5 percent.

Despite the labor shortage, several factors contribute to making construction jobs attractive positions in the current economy. Most hourly positions do not require a traditional four-year degree, giving young people a path to a career that does not require taking on student loan debt. Average hourly earnings in the construction industry continue to rise year over year and currently sit at $30.71 per hour, according to BLS data.

“Contractors are going to great lengths to recruit, prepare and hire new workers, but too few young adults know about the rewarding opportunities available to them in construction,” said Stephen Sandherr, chief executive officer of the AGC.

A good chunk of the growth in the construction industry is centered around metro areas. Between August 2018 and August 2019, construction employment grew in 252 of 358 metro areas. Expect this trend to continue as the labor pool continues to condense and people move to areas with highly-populated areas in search of job opportunities. Finding workers in remote areas will likely continue to present a challenge to construction companies, and some may soon have to turn to autonomous equipment to get jobs done.