17 states add construction jobs in March as hiring surge wanes

Dive Brief:

  • An Associated General Contractors of America analysis of Department of Labor data found that only 17 states added construction positions between February and March — less than half the number from January to February. Year over year, 39 states added construction jobs.
  • California gained the most jobs from February to March (18,900 jobs; 2.4%) and New Mexico saw the largest percentage increase (3.4%; 1,500 jobs). California also added the most positions since March 2016 (42,200; 5.5%), and Oregon gained the biggest share (9.2%; 8,200 jobs).
  • Thirty states lost construction jobs from February to March, with Illinois sacrificing the largest number (-7,100 jobs; -3.2%) and Alaska giving up the biggest percentage (-4.9%; -800 jobs). Illinois lost the most construction jobs year over year (-4,900 jobs; -2.2%), and Mississippi dropped the biggest percentage (-4,800 jobs; -10.4%).

Dive Insight:

February's mild weather led to a surge in early hiring for the year, which diminished March's typical seasonal job increases, AGC Chief Economist Ken Simonson said in a release. He added that only Massachusetts and Texas set March hiring records in comparison to the five that set hiring records in February.  

The findings echo the overall industry employment trend in March, as the BLS reported that construction added 6,000 positions, a slowdown after the strong showing in January and February.

Construction companies continue to struggle to find an adequate supply of skilled labor, and they are taking longer to complete projects or passing them up altogether due to the limited talent pool, according to the AGC. The association has continued its outreach to federal, state and local officials, asking them to increase funding for programs that encourage careers in construction, particularly ones aimed at high school students.  

The AGC urged public agencies to institute those strategies outlined in its Workforce Development Plan and suggested that young people could be drawn into the industry if they realized they could make a good salary, find career opportunities and work with the latest technology like drones, virtual reality tools and lasers.  

When it comes to attracting those younger workers, however, the industry has a steep hill to climb. A recent survey conducted by the National Association of Home Builders found that only 3% of respondents, ages 18 to 25, who knew what career they wanted to pursue said they had chosen the construction trades. While that small group said pay and the chance to learn valuable skills played into that decision, 63% of undecided survey participants said there was little to no chance they would pursue a construction career, with many citing the physical demands and level of difficulty as reasons behind their decision.

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Filed Under: Commercial Building Residential Building Economy