The construction industry added 17,000 jobs in April, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Average earnings also increased slightly, from $29.44 per hour to $29.63. Unemployment fell from 7.4% to 6.5%.
“Many firms are boosting pay and taking other steps to compete for a relatively small pool of available, qualified workers to hire,” Stephen Sandherr, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of America, said in a statement. “While these steps appear to be luring more construction workers back to the job market, firms report they would hire even more workers if they could find enough qualified candidates.”
In fact, National Association of Home Builders analyzed the most recent BLS labor turnover data and found that in March, there were 248,000 open construction jobs, creeping up on last summer’s post-recession high of 255,000 open jobs. The industry lost 10,000 jobs over that same period, according to BLS.
“NAHB expects construction sector net hiring to continue in 2018 as the single-family construction market expands. However, as labor remains a top cited challenge to expansion, builders will increasingly explore options to find ways to build more with less,” Robert Dietz, chief economist for NAHB, wrote in the analysis released on Tuesday.
AGC noted that the April job numbers represent the highest employment level for the industry since June 2008. Over the past 12 months, construction jobs have increased by 257,000, three times the increase in total nonfarm employment, the association found.
Still, Sandherr called for more support for construction education.
“It is time to start showing more of our young adults that high-paying careers in construction should be on the list of professions they consider,” he said in the statement. “Not every student needs to amass a mountain of college debt just to be able to make mediocre wages working in a fluorescent-lit cube farm.”
Total student debt is now $1.5 million, according to the Federal Reserve, the highest level since the bank began tracking that data in 2006.