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Construction industry analysts concerned by near-record number of unfilled positions

With 330,000 job openings in construction at the end of June, AGC officials say labor shortages continue to plague the industry.

Construction firms added 32,000 jobs in July as the sector’s unemployment rate fell to 3.5 percent; however, a close to record level of unfilled construction positions has left industry analysts concerned.

“Construction firms are doing their best to add new workers to keep pace with strong demand for construction,” says Stephen E. Sandherr, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). “Despite the month's big gains, the industry's job gains would have been even higher if there were more people available to hire.”

Total construction employment moved up to 7,706,000 in July as both residential and nonresidential construction firms added jobs for the month. Nonresidential firms added 18,300 employees, including 4,900 at general building contractors, 10,300 at nonresidential specialty trade contractors and 3,100 at heavy and civil engineering construction firms.

Employment in residential construction—which includes homebuilders, multifamily general contractors and residential specialty trade contractors—increased by 14,100 between June and July.

Compared to July of last year, the construction industry has added 311,000 jobs, an increase of 4.2 percent. The nonresidential sector added 190,800 of those yearly job gains, an increase of 4.4 percent. Meanwhile, residential construction firms added 120,800 jobs between July 2021 and July 2022, an increase of 4 percent.

The unemployment rate among jobseekers with construction experience fell from 6.1 percent in July 2021 to 3.5 percent in July 2022 month, Sandherr notes. He adds that the construction unemployment rate is at the lowest July level in four years. In addition, the number of unemployed construction workers fell by 233,000, or 39 percent, to 359,000.

Sandherr says that as the number of unemployed construction workers declined, job openings in construction surged. There were 330,000 job openings in construction at the end of June, which is the second highest number of job openings for the month in the 22-year history of the construction industry job opening series, which federal officials released earlier this week.

Association officials say the challenge is too few people are aware of the many opportunities and benefits available of working in construction. The bulk of federal education funding is designed to encourage students to attend college and pursue office-style jobs, Sandherr explains.

“It is time to start telling Americans there are multiple paths to success and that one of those paths is a career in construction,” Sandherr says. “Investing in infrastructure and chip plants is important but investing in the people to build those facilities is essential.”

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