The Associated General Contractors of America reported that 21 states and the District of Columbia added construction positions in September, a three-state drop when compared to August. Meanwhile, just 35 states added payroll positions between September 2015 and September 2016.
New York generated the most month-to-month construction positions (5,100 jobs, up 1.4%), and Arizona added the biggest share (2,900 jobs, up 2.1%). California added the most jobs since September 2015 (30,900, up 4.2%), while Iowa saw the biggest increase (13,700, 17.7%).
From August to September, employment remained the same in five states and dropped in 24, with Pennsylvania shedding the most positions (3,400, down 1.4%) and Wyoming losing the highest percentage (900, down 4.1%). Year over year, 15 states and Washington, DC, lost jobs, with Kansas giving up the most (4,700, down 7.7%) and Wyoming losing the largest share (2,100, down 9.2%) .
Contractors are largely positive about the potential for future construction activity, said AGC Chief Economist Ken Simonson, indicating that the payroll contractions are most likely due to a continued shortage of skilled workers. He called on the U.S. Senate to take action on career and technical-school legislation that the U.S. House of Representatives already passed to expand on existing programs and draw more people into the industry.
In an August survey, the AGC found that 69% of contractors were having difficulty finding qualified hourly employees, and 75% expected to have a hard time finding enough skilled workers next year. The AGC said that wages increased 2.8% year over year from September 2015 to September 2016, but MarketWatch pointed out that while construction companies have tried to make do with fewer employees through streamlined workflows and longer working hours, only 48% of firms have used higher wages to attract employees.
Construction employment came back strong in September, adding almost 23,000 jobs from August, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' latest report. Nonresidential and residential specialty trade contractors were the biggest drivers, accounting for almost 15,000 of those positions. Total construction employment, according to the AGC, hit 6,669,000 — a level not seen since 2008 — and was 3.4% higher than in September 2015.