O&MM Fabricator - September/October 2015 - (Page 57)
Falls to 14-Year Low as Employment
Hits Highest Mark Since 2009;
Data Point to Looming Worker
Shortage, Officials Warn
Despite the increase in July 2015, the con-
struction industry's job growth has slowed
while demand for construction remains strong;
Association urges increasing the number of
career and technical education programs as
well as to take other steps.
Construction employment in July climbed
to the highest level since February 2009, while
the number of unemployed workers with construction experience shrank to a 14-year low,
according to an analysis by the Associated
General Contractors of America. Association
officials cautioned that the diminishing pool
of available qualified labor may be having an
impact on the industry's ability to meet growing demand.
"It is encouraging to see construction
employment rising again, but the industry could hire many more workers if they
were available," said Ken Simonson, the
association's chief economist. "The lack of
experienced construction workers may be
impeding the industry's ability to start or complete new projects. The recent acceleration
in construction spending may soon level off
unless the sector can draw in more workers
with the right skills."
Construction employment totaled 6,383,000
in July, the most since February 2009, but the
total rose by only 6,000 in July and by an average of only 7,200 per month over the past five
months, Simonson noted. The number of unemployed workers who reported last working
in construction totaled 474,000, the lowest
amount since 2001.
"The sector's job gains in the past five
months have been intermittent and relatively
sluggish despite signs of accelerating demand
for construction," Simonson said. "The latest Census Bureau data show the amount of
construction spending is rising at the fastest
rate since 2006, and there are several indicators-such as the steady increase in hiring
of architects and engineers-that suggest
demand for construction will remain strong,
but contractors may have difficulty finding
enough workers to take on all those projects."
Overall construction employment rose by
6,000 from June to July, far below the monthly
average of 19,250 between July 2014 and July
2015, Simonson noted. Meanwhile, employment at architectural and engineering services
firms climbed by 3.6 percent since July 2014,
suggesting that more workers are being hired
to design future construction projects, the
economist pointed out. Construction spending
put in place-a measure of current industry
activity-jumped 12 percent from June 2014
to June 2015, the Census Bureau reported
on August 3.
Association officials said that a number of
factors are contributing to the shrinking pool
of available labor, including the fact that many
aging workers are retiring, while other workers who lost their jobs during the downturn
left the industry for other sectors. They added
that the lack of high school-level programs that
expose students to construction as a potential
career path means few graduates are pursuing
choosing to work in the industry.
"We are doing many students a real disservice by not telling them about how they
can make a good living working in construction," said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's chief executive officer, noting that the
association's Workforce Development Plan
calls for increasing the number of career and
technical education programs nationwide.
"The more options we give students, the more
likely they are to succeed."
To learn more about this topic, visit https://
The information included in this article
was taken from AGC of America's website,
September/October 2015 * O&MM Fabricator | 57
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