The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, December 02, 2016

Michigan spikes to top, again, in construction employment

By The Building Tradesman

Michigan's construction employment picture in 2016 shows a decent year of work opportunities, punctuated by a few impressive spikes of hiring.

One of those nice spikes took place in October. The Associated General Contractors reported on Nov. 18 that Michigan added 6,000 construction jobs over the month prior, and once again ranked No. 1 (+4.0 percent) among the states in job creation. Michigan was also No. 1 in the nation in adding jobs from August to September (+2,600 jobs) and No. 4 from January to February (+3,900).

For much of the year, Michigan sat around the middle third among the states in construction job creation, where overall, it's been a good year for construction. Construction employment increased in 35 states between October 2015 and October 2016, according to analysis of Labor Department data released by the AGC. Association officials said declining public-sector investments in infrastructure and other public projects were undermining construction employment growth in many parts of the country.

"Firms that perform public-sector work are having a hard time finding enough work to keep their teams together," said Ken Simonson, chief economist for the association, noting that public-sector spending on construction is down 2.2 percent for the first nine months of 2016. "These firms would definitely benefit, and be able to handle, the kinds of infrastructure investments the president-elect and Congress have been discussing."

Michigan in October employed 156,500 construction workers, an increase of 9,000 from October 2015. That 6.5 percent hike in building trades jobs during that 12-month period ranked our state 10th in the nation.

The AGC said that even as many firms that perform private-sector work are having a hard time finding qualified workers, many firms that rely on public-sector funding to build roads, bridges and other public infrastructure are more worried about finding work. They urged President-elect Trump and the incoming Congress to act quickly to pass a multi-year infrastructure program and find sustainable ways to pay for future improvements as well.

"The new administration has a unique opportunity to put more people to work in high-paying construction jobs and rebuild the public infrastructure that is critical to our continued economic vitality," Stephen E. Sandherr, chief executive officer for the association, said.