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Construction Employment Increases Hit Nine-Year High
Industry Unemployment Rate Low, Average Hourly Wage High


Construction employment added 6,000 jobs in July, to mark an increase of 2.8 percent over 12 months. At the same time average hourly earnings in the industry came in at $28.90, nearly 10 percent more per hour than the average U.S. private-sector job.

In spite of a tight labor market that may be keeping contractors from hiring as many workers as they need, construction employment increased by 6,000 jobs in July to the highest level since October 2008, according to an Associated General Contractors of America analysis of new government data.

"Construction firms added employees over the past year at a much higher rate than the public and private sectors as a whole, but the low unemployment rates in construction and the overall economy suggests contractors are having difficulty filling positions," said Ken Simonson, the association's chief economist. "Although construction spending has slowed, many contractors are still looking for qualified craft workers and project managers."

Construction employment gained 2.8 percent over 12 months. Simonson pointed out that the year-over-year growth rate was nearly twice the 1.5 percent rise in total payroll employment. The construction sector's unemployment rate in July was 4.9 percent, compared to the 4.3 percent rate for all workers.

Average hourly earnings in the industry climbed to $28.90. Simonson noted that construction pays nearly 10 percent more per hour than the average private-sector job in the U.S.

Residential construction added 7,200 jobs in July and posted a total gain of 4.6 percent over the past 12 months. However nonresidential construction employment dropped by 1,700 jobs in the month but still registered a 1.8 percent increase over 12 months.

To help offset growing labor shortages, association officials urged local, state and federal leaders to enact measures designed to expose more high school students to high-paying careers in construction, and increase investments in what is now called career and technical education. Decades of reported disinvestment in vocational education systems can result in many high school students never really considering construction as a possible career opportunity despite above-average pay and opportunities for advancement within the field.

"It is time to stop signaling to students that their only path to success is paying for four years of college and hoping to land a rewarding office job," said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's chief executive officer. "Our educational systems should be exposing more students to the fact our modern economy offers many different paths to successful and rewarding careers, including construction."

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July 17, 2019, 8:28 pm PDT

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