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Construction Hiring Growth Facing Headwinds in Worker Shortage

Job gains in construction are continuing in some markets but appear to be slowing due to the scarcity of workers to hire.

Job gains in construction are continuing in some markets but appear to be slowing due to the scarcity of workers to hire. According to its analysis of the latest employment data, the Associated General Contractors, Arlington, Va., reported that 42 states and the District of Columbia added construction jobs between November 2017 and November 2018 but just over half that many gained jobs in the most recent month. AGC said 23 states added construction jobs between October and November.

Association officials said extremely low unemployment rates in most of the nation have made it hard for contractors in many states to continue adding workers, despite strong demand for projects.

"November was the first month this year in which fewer than half the states experienced monthly increases in construction employment," Ken Simonson, AGC’s chief economist, said in a release. "At a time when job openings are at record highs, the recent slowdown in hiring in some states may indicate contractors are unable to find qualified workers, rather than a slackening in demand for construction."

Simonson noted that job openings in construction totaled 292,000 at the end of October, a jump of 59,000 or 25% from a year earlier and the highest October level in the 18 years that the Labor Department has published the series. The number of unemployed jobseekers with recent construction experience — 352,000 — was the lowest yet for that month. Together, these figures suggest contractors in many states cannot find experienced workers to fill vacancies, Simonson said.

Texas added the most construction jobs during the past year (47,100 jobs, 6.5%). Other states adding a large number of new construction jobs for the past 12 months include Florida (32,900 jobs, 6.4%), California (29,600 jobs, 3.6%), Arizona (18,500 jobs, 12.3%) and Georgia (18,200 jobs, 9.7%). Wyoming added the highest percentage of construction jobs during the past year (15.2%, 2,900 jobs), followed by Arizona, Nevada (11.7%, 9,900 jobs), North Dakota (11.4%, 2,900 jobs), Connecticut (11.0%, 6,400 jobs) and Oregon (10.7%, 10,500 jobs). Construction employment reached a record high in four states: Nebraska, New York, Oregon and Texas.

Seven states shed construction jobs between November 2017 and 2018, while construction employment was unchanged in Rhode Island. The largest decline occurred in Missouri (-3,300 jobs, -2.7%), followed by South Carolina (-3,100 jobs, -3.0%) and New Jersey (-2,200 jobs, -1.4%). Hawaii had the steepest percentage job loss for the year (-3.8%, -1,400 jobs).

Among the 23 states with one-month job gains between October and November, California had the largest pickup (3,300 jobs, 0.4%), followed by Texas (2,700 jobs, 0.3%), Pennsylvania (1,900 jobs, 0.7%) and Arizona (1,900 jobs, 1.1%). Wyoming added the highest percentage of construction jobs for the month (4.8%, 1,000 jobs), followed by North Dakota (2.5%, 700 jobs) and West Virginia (2.3%, 800 jobs).

By metropolitan area, The Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas metro area added the most construction jobs during the past year (24,000 jobs, 11%). Other metro areas adding a large amount of construction jobs during the past 12 months include Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Ariz. (17,500 jobs, 15%); Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas (14,800 jobs, 10%); and Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Fla. (11,100 jobs, 15%). The largest percentage gain occurred in Weirton-Steubenville, W.Va.-Ohio (26%, 500 jobs), followed by New Bedford, Mass. (22%, 600 jobs) and Lewiston, Idaho-Wash. (21percent, 300 jobs).

The largest job losses between November 2017 and November 2018 occurred in St. Louis, Mo.-Ill. (-4,500 jobs, -7%), followed by Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, Md. (-3,000 jobs, -4%) and Middlesex-Monmouth-Ocean, N.J. (-2,400 jobs, -6%). The largest percentage decrease occurred in Laredo, Texas (-10%, -400 jobs), followed by Portland-South Portland, Maine (-9%, -900 jobs) and Spokane-Spokane Valley, Wash. (-8%, -1,100 jobs).

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