The Arlington, Virginia-based Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) says the number of employees in the construction sector in 32 states has exceeded the “pre-pandemic” peak as of this April. Tempering this good news, says the AGC, is that “record high job openings” points to a shortage of qualified workers.
Citing federal employment data, AGC says the strongest construction sector job growth since February 2020 has occurred in Utah, while the “worst declines” have been seen in New York. In all states, says the AGC, many companies are “having a hard time finding workers to hire,” creating a potential for some future projects.
“Construction employment gains have stalled in many states in recent months as the pool of available workers has dried up,” says Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “It will be hard to satisfy demand for private projects and infrastructure unless more workers are available to fill the record number of openings.”
Simonson says government data from the monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey show that there were 415,000 job openings in the construction sector at the end of March. That was the highest March total since the series began in 2001 and constituted a 20 percent jump in openings from one year earlier.
The number of openings exceeded the 388,000 employees hired during that month, implying that construction firms would have added twice as many employees if they had been available, says Simonson.
Since February 2020—the month before the pandemic caused projects to be halted or canceled—to April 2022, construction employment increased in 32, states, declined in 17 states and the District of Columbia, and was unchanged in Alaska.
Utah has added the most construction jobs since February 2020 (16,300 jobs, 14.3 percent), followed by Florida (15,500 jobs, 2.7 percent) and Tennessee (13,200 jobs, 10.0 percent). Utah also had the largest percentage gain, followed by Montana (13.3 percent, 4,100 jobs) and South Dakota (12.5 percent, 3,000 jobs).
New York has shed the most construction jobs during the COVID-19 era (-27,700 jobs, -6.8 percent), followed by Pennsylvania (-15,600 jobs, -5.8 percent) and Texas (-10,800 jobs, -1.4 percent). The largest percentage losses were in New York, Kentucky (-6.2 percent, -5,000 jobs), and Pennsylvania.
In April specifically, Florida added the most construction jobs (4,300 jobs, 0.7 percent growth), followed by Texas (3,600 jobs, 0.5 percent) and Ohio (3,300 jobs, 1.4 percent). California lost the most construction jobs in April (-13,200 jobs, -1.4 percent), followed by North Carolina (-5,900 jobs, -2.4 percent) and New Jersey (-2,600 jobs, -1.6 percent).
AGC says it is urging public officials to boost investments in career and technical education to help entice more people to pursue careers in construction. They say the federal government invests insufficiently on programs focusing on careers like construction. “We need to let more young people know they can earn a good living and a lot of satisfaction by working in construction careers,” says Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s CEO.