Unemployment among qualified construction workers falls to record low

The construction industry sees 4% year-over-year growth in November as employment figures rise and hourly pay increases
Construction unemployment reached a record low in November.

This November, the number of unemployed, qualified construction workers fell to just 3.9%—a record low since tracking for this figure began in 2000—according to the Association of General Contractors of America’s (AGC) analysis of data gleaned from the most recent employment report issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Workers with construction qualifications remain in demand, as the national unemployment rate for those in the industry dropped from 5% this time last year to 3.9%, marking a decline of more than a percentage point. Construction employers added 5,000 jobs in November for a total of 282,000 over the past year.

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“Demand for construction remains strong and pay is rising faster than in the overall economy,” Ken Simonson, the chief economist for the AGC said in a statement. “But contractors are having increasing difficulty finding qualified workers as industry unemployment slides to historic lows.”

With a total of 7.3 million construction industry jobs in November, a 4% jump since the same time last year, hourly earnings also witnessed gains. The average wage grew 3.7% from a year ago to an average of $30.28 per hour. That’s 10.7% higher than the average hourly earnings for workers in all nonfarm private sector jobs, which increased 3.1% over the year to $27.35.

Residential construction employment continues to lead the industry, gaining 4.7% over the past year as residential builders and specialty trade contractors added 7,900 jobs for the month and 127,900 jobs for the year. And although nonresidential construction employment slipped by 3,600 this November, builders filled 154,100 new positions over the year, a 3.6% improvement.

“Demand for new construction is rising faster than construction firms can add skilled personnel,” remarked Stephen Sandherr, the chief executive officer at AGC. “In order to have a skilled workforce and build America, federal officials should invest in career training and push for common-sense immigration reform.”

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Indeed, the number of unfilled or open jobs in the construction sector have been on the rise since the Great Recession ended. A year ago, the rate of open positions was 3.2%, but that figure has since risen to 3.8%, according the BLS Job Openings and Labor Turnover Study (JOLTS) and the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) analysis.

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