The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, January 11, 2019

Scarcity of qualified workers may hinder construction

By The Building Tradesman

Michigan re-joined the nation's construction party in November, overcoming a weak start to the fall season and ending it on a stronger note. Michigan added 900 construction jobs between October and November 2018, and was one of 42 states that added construction jobs over the past 12 months.

Construction employment in Michigan increased by .05 percent from October 2018 to November 2018. Those numbers contributed to a net gain of 10,800 jobs from November 2017 to November 2018. That 6.5 percent increase in construction jobs during those 12 months ranked Michigan No. 14 in construction employment percentage gains among that states. The good overall year-to-year numbers masked relatively weak U.S. employment gains in

November, when only 23 states added jobs.

"November was the first month this year in which fewer than half the states experienced monthly increases in construction employment," said Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors, which released the numbers on Dec. 21. "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."

To illustrate his point, Simonson said that job openings in U.S. construction totaled 292,000 at the end of October, a jump of 59,000 or 25 percent from a year earlier and the highest October level in the 18 years that the Labor Department has published the series. Further, 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, +65 percent). Other states adding a large number of new construction jobs for the past 12 months include Florida (32,900 jobs, +6.4 percent), California (29,600 jobs, +3.6 percent) and Arizona (18,500 jobs, +12.3 percent)

Missouri (-2.7 percent), South Carolina (-3.0 percent) and Hawaii (-3.8 percent) made up the bottom three states for construction gains for the prior 12 months.