The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, March 25, 2016

'Strong demand' pushes construction employment higher

By The Building Tradesman

All in all, Michigan can't complain too much about the state of the state's construction industry employment. The rest of the nation can't complain much, either.

Citing Labor Department data released March 14, the Associated General Contractors said 44 states gained construction jobs between January 2015 and January 2016, with the employment figures showing "strong demand for construction except in a number of energy producing states."

Michigan gained 5,000 construction jobs during that 12-month period, a 3.4 percent increase that ranked No. 36 among the states. Hawaii (+15.6 percent), Rhode Island (+12.7 percent) and Nevada (+10.2 percent) were the hotbeds for construction employment. Worst among the six states losing jobs were West Virginia (-7.4 percent), Alaska (-8.7 percent) and North Dakota (-14.4 percent), which lost 5,300 construction jobs, the vast majority of which were attributable to declines in the energy sector.

"Construction remains vibrant in nearly every state and is adding workers at a faster clip than other industries in much of the country," said Ken Simonson, chief economist for the association. "Contractors report they are optimistic that demand for construction will continue, but they worry about finding enough qualified workers."

Michigan was one of 18 states that lost construction jobs between December 2015 and January 2016, although the decline was modest: 200 jobs, or 0.1 percent. Michigan employed 152,100 construction workers in January, compared to 147,100 12 months earlier.

The AGC said the January state employment figures indicate strong demand for construction services throughout the country, except in a number of states that rely heavily on energy production in areas like coal extraction and natural gas and oil drilling.

The favorable workplace numbers continued to prompt the leadership at the AGC to stress that the situation is "likely to put further strain on already tight labor conditions" and should lead to expanded hiring practices.

However, many in the building trades, not only in Michigan, are not seeing that labor crunch, and it's several years into the economic expansion since the Great Recession.