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Firms continue struggling to fill construction jobs

Construction employment increased in three-fifths of U.S. metro areas between August 2015 and August 2016 — the smallest share that posted annual gains in nearly 3 ½ years — as contractors in many areas report difficulty in finding qualified workers, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released today by the Associated General Contractors of America.

The Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia metro area saw an increase of 3,900 jobs, to 60,900 from 57,000 over the 12-month period.

Other North Carolina metro areas with increases included Greensboro-High Point, gaining 500 jobs to 14,700, and Durham-Chapel Hill, gaining 300 jobs to 7,800.

Association officials said the new data underscores the need to make it easier for school officials to set up programs that teach skills involved in construction.

“While the number of metro areas with employment increases has been slipping, the number with decreases — 76 in August — has held roughly steady,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist, in the release. “Meanwhile, job openings have been at a 10-year high but hiring has stalled in many parts of the country. Together, these facts make it clear that the slowdown in hiring has more to do with workforce shortages than shortages of work.”

Construction employment increased in 220 of 358 metro areas in the past year, held steady in 62 areas, and declined in 76. The number of areas with annual gains was the smallest since April 2013, the economist noted. The Denver area added the most construction jobs during the past year, gaining 11,400 jobs; followed by Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine, California, gaining 10,200 jobs; and Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Florida, gaining 10,200 jobs.

The largest job losses from August 2015 to August 2016 were in the Houston area, down 3,700 jobs; followed by Birmingham-Hoover, Alabama, which lost 1,500 jobs; and Louisville-Jefferson County, Kentucky, down 1,400 jobs.

Association officials said the new construction employment figures, combined with recent data on job openings in the sector, make it clear that firms in many parts of the country are having a hard time finding enough workers to hire.

“Many firms would be hiring more people if only they could find qualified applicants to bring onboard,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer, in the release. Sandherr urged the U.S. Senate to act quickly on a House-passed measure to reform and boost funding for career and technical education programs.

“Making it easier for school officials to offer programs that prepare students for high-paying careers in construction will certainly help overcome chronic workforce shortages in the industry,” he said in the release.


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