The outlook for construction workers is bright as unemployment in construction falls to its lowest point in nearly seven years. Contractors, however, face a number of challenges posed by the abundance of new job openings.
More Firms Hiring Skilled Laborers
The unemployment rate among construction laborers stood at 7 percent in September, according to recent findings from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s a drop of 0.7 percent from August. While it’s a ways off from the low of 6.2 percent in November 2007, it’s still appreciably lower than the 8.5 percent unemployment rate of September 2013.
Positions opened up in all areas of construction, but specialty trade contractors saw the most gains with 8,800 more jobs available than in August. Among the most in-demand workers are carpenters, concrete workers, sheet metal installers, and glaziers. In addition, some 6,200 jobs were added in building construction.
Gains in heavy-civil engineering construction jobs lagged behind with just 500 new positions opening. The employment outlook for nonresidential building construction workers remained at its August level, an improvement from the recent past when this segment lost jobs.
Competition for Good Workers May Grow
While lower unemployment in construction is an overall good sign for the industry, it also makes finding qualified workers harder. More than 80 percent of firms have trouble filling positions and that number is increasing, according to information from the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). The result is more resources directed toward recruitment as well as delays when positions aren’t filled on schedule. The Southeast and Gulf states have been particularly affected by the labor shortage.
To compound the problem, fewer future workers are entering construction-related trades and those who are aren’t always getting the training they need. Many contractors have found new graduates from craft training programs aren’t qualified to perform the jobs available.
An October 2014 survey conducted by the AGC found contractors are looking to attract and retain employees by increasing pay, improving benefits packages, and offering the opportunity to earn performance bonuses.
For the latest data on unemployment in construction, contact Construction Monitor.