Construction firms add 23,000 employees in September as sector’s employment hits highest level



Industry Officials Note the Sector’s Average Hourly Earnings Increased by 2.8
Percent for the Year As Most Firms Report Shortages of Qualified Workers, Number of
Unemployed Workers Hits 16-Year Low for Month

Construction employers added 23,000 jobs in September as employment in the sector
hit the highest level since the end of 2008 amid strong demand for construction
services, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America.
Association officials noted that average hourly earnings for construction workers
increased by 2.8 percent compared to 12 months ago as labor shortages continue to
prove challenging for many firms.

«Demand for construction remains quite strong but contractors continue to struggle
to find qualified workers,» said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist.
«The monthly declines the industry experienced during the summer were likely caused
by worker shortages instead of shortages of work for many firms.»

Construction employment totaled 6,669,000 in September, an increase of 23,000 from
August and 218,000 or 3.4 percent from a year ago. That is higher than at any point
since December 2008 when there were 6,701,000 people working in construction. The
annual rate of increase in construction employment was nearly twice as fast as the
1.7 percent increase for total nonfarm payroll employment. There were 474,000
unemployed jobseekers in September who last worked in the construction industry, the
lowest total for September in 16 years, Simonson added.

As the available supply of workers continues to shrink, average hourly earnings, a
measure of wages and salaries for all workers, increased 2.8 percent in construction
over the past year to $28.30 in September, nearly 10 percent more than for all
nonfarm jobs, the economist noted. For the private nonfarm sector, earnings rose 2.4
percent over the past 12 months to $25.79.

Residential construction–comprising residential building and specialty trade
contractors–added 15,700 jobs in September and 146,000, or 5.9 percent, compared to
a year ago. Nonresidential construction–building, specialty trades, and heavy and
civil engineering construction firms–added 7,000 jobs for the month and gained
72,000 employees compared to September 2015, a 1.8 percent rise. There were
year-over-year gains for all segments, but job losses from August to September among
nonresidential building firms.

Association officials said they were encouraged by the new construction employment
figures, but they cautioned that labor shortages remain significant and could impact
future hiring levels. They urged members of the U.S. Senate to act on House-passed
legislation to provide new flexibility and higher funding levels for career and
technical education programs across the country.

«Just because contractors were able to find people to hire last month doesn’t mean
the industry’s labor shortages are over,» said Stephen E. Sandherr, the
association’s chief executive officer. «Senators can make it easier for schools to
teach the skills local employers need so we can put more people to work in
high-paying construction careers.»