The construction industry added 23,000 jobs in October as unemployment rates for the sector hovered near the all-time low for the month, according to an analysis of new government data the Associated General Contractors of America released Nov. 3. Association officials said the construction industry would likely have hired even more workers to keep pace with strong demand for construction.
“Despite the fact pay for hourly craft workers in construction is rising faster than for production employees, contractors are still struggling to find enough skilled workers,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Both residential and nonresidential construction employers want to hire even more workers.”
Construction employment in October totaled 8,033,000, seasonally adjusted, an increase of 23,000, or 0.3 percent, from September. The sector has added 219,000 jobs during the past 12 months, a gain of 2.8 percent. Residential building and specialty trade contractors added 13,700 employees in October and 55,600, or 1.7 percent, over 12 months. Employment at nonresidential construction firms — nonresidential building and specialty trade contractors along with heavy and civil engineering construction firms — climbed by 8,400 positions for the month and 163,300, or 3.6 percent, since October 2022.
The unemployment rate among job seekers with construction experience was 4 percent in October, one of the lowest October rates in the 24-year history of the data. A separate government report released earlier in November reported that there were a record-high 438,000 job openings in construction at the end of September, far exceeding the number hired that month and a further sign of contractors’ difficulty in finding qualified workers.
Average hourly earnings for production and nonsupervisory employees in construction — covering most on-site craft workers as well as many office workers — climbed by 5.4 percent over the year to $34.64 per hour. Construction firms in September provided a wage “premium” of nearly 19 percent compared to the average hourly earnings for all private-sector production employees.
Association officials noted that efforts underway in Congress to exclude the construction industry from the H-2B visa program would only add to the industry’s labor shortages and undermine its ability to complete infrastructure and economic development projects. They urged Congress to boost investments in career and technical education programs and ways to increase the number of visas available for people with construction skills.
“Contractors are trying to keep pace with demand for new infrastructure, clean energy and development projects, among others,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Limiting to who can work in construction will only undermine the sector’s ability to deliver projects on time and on budget.”