What 48,000 New Jobs Mean for the Construction Industry

The construction industry added 48,000 new jobs in January, signifying the largest industry employment jump in the past seven years. At the end of January 2014, construction employment reached its highest level since July 2009. So what accounted for this dramatic increase and what does it mean for the construction industry as a whole? construction-employment-2

“Despite a second month of unusually severe weather in much of the nation, contractors more than offset the job losses that occurred in December,” said Ken Simonson, chief economist for Associated General Contractors of America. “All segments of the industry added workers for the month, and the sector has increased employment at nearly double the all-industry rate in the past 12 months.” More specifically, 13,000 residential jobs, 8,000 nonresidential jobs, 13,000 nonresidential specialty trade jobs, and 10,000 heavy and civil engineering jobs were added to company payrolls in January.

Despite these promising figures, there are still plenty of construction workers out of a job. The construction industry’s current unemployment rate is 12.3%, which is 3.7% higher than it was in November 2013. Meanwhile the national unemployment rate across all industries is down to 6.6%.

This job growth trend may indicate that construction workers who have lost their jobs are getting passed over by new skilled workers entering the field. Construction companies are also noticing that experienced workers are leaving the industry to pursue other careers and starting to worry about worker shortages in the days ahead. Compounded with the rising cost of materials, federal budget cuts, and newly legislated regulations, construction companies must be willing to pay for quality labor.

If this current rate of growth continues into the months ahead, construction companies may have trouble finding enough skilled workers to meet the growing demand. “Construction demand for workers is likely to accelerate in 2014 as more projects relating to oil and gas, manufacturing, warehouse and hotel construction break ground while demand for residential work—especially apartments—remains strong,” Simonson said. “It will be a challenge for contractors in many regions and specialties to find enough employees to perform the work ahead.”

construction-employmentExpect to see an increase in workforce development and training programs in the construction industry this year. According to a AGC of America national survey, you can expect the available volume of projects to increase the most in manufacturing, retail, warehouse, lodging, and private offices. Construction companies, construction associations, and local and national leaders are attempting to work together to improve existing training programs and create new programs in key demand regions.

Hopefully, these programs get implemented soon and prove to be effective, because the lack of skilled workers directly translates into construction delays. Delays, in turn, result in unnecessary expenditures, wavering efficiency, and a slew of dissatisfied clients.


*Photo credit: Jennifer Smits via WikiMedia Commons, USACE HQ via Flickr 

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