AGC: Construction unemployment drops to seven-year low

Source: Associated General Contractors of America, Washington, D.C.

Construction employers added 16,000 jobs last month as sector unemployment fell to 7 percent, the lowest rate for September since 2007, according to an AGC analysis of monthly employment figures the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released October 3.

“While we are eager to see even more construction employment gains, there is no denying the fact that the industry has been in recovery mode for much of the past three years,” says AGC CEO Stephen Sandherr. “But the industry won’t be able to keep filling positions if there aren’t enough qualified workers available.”

Construction employment totaled 6,079,000 in September, the highest total since May 2009, with a 12-month gain of 230,000 jobs or 3.9 percent. Residential building and specialty trade contractors added a combined 11,800 employees since August and 129,400 (5.9 percent) over 12 months. Nonresidential building and specialty trade contractors hired a net of 3,700 workers for the month and 100,300 (2.7 percent) since September 2013. However, heavy and civil engineering contractors, which perform the majority of public-sector construction, increased their headcount by only 500 in September and 29,000 (3.3 percent) over the year amid tight government budgets.

The number of workers who said they looked for work in the past month and had last worked in construction fell to 604,000 in September. The last time the number of unemployed construction workers dropped that low was August 2007, when the industry was contending with widespread labor shortages that delayed projects and increased costs. Contractors cite the lack of local, secondary-level vocational programs as one of the causes for the worker shortages. As a result, AGC continues to urge federal, state and local officials to enact measures in its Workforce Development Plan; they make it easier for school districts, local associations and private firms to establish career and technical education and training programs.