Thirty-two states added construction jobs in 2016 as a dearth of experienced workers kept contractors in many states from hiring as many employees as they would have preferred, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America of Labor Department data released today and the association’s own survey. Association officials said the new Trump administration could help by including workforce development measures as part of its promised new infrastructure program.
“Although the number of states reporting construction employment increases has dwindled, contractors are more upbeat than ever about the construction market and intend to hire more workers this year,” said Ken Simonson, chief economist for the association. “However, the shortage of workers is their top concern and nearly three-quarters of contractors say they are having a hard time filling positions.”
The economist said the number of states with construction job gains declined to 32 in 2016 from 44 in 2015, yet a survey the association released earlier this month found that 73% of respondents expect to add to their headcount in 2017. Respondents had a positive view, on balance, of the dollar volume of projects this year across all 13 project types included in the survey. However, 55% listed worker shortages among the biggest concerns for them and their business, while 73% said they were having a hard time filling salaried or hourly craft jobs.
Florida added the most construction jobs (22,300 jobs, 5.1%) during the past year. Other states adding a high number of new construction jobs for the past 12 months include California (20,900 jobs, 2.8%), Washington (13,500 jobs, 7.6%); Colorado (11,000 jobs, 7.0%) and Nevada (11,000 jobs, 15.3%). Nevada also added the highest percentage of new construction jobs during the past year, followed by Oregon (9.0%, 7,600 jobs), Iowa (8.3%, 6,900 jobs), Minnesota (8.0%, 9,300 jobs) and Washington.
Eighteen states and the District of Columbia shed construction jobs between December 2015 and December 2016. Illinois lost the highest number of construction jobs (-9,700 jobs, -4.5%), followed by New York (-7,800 jobs, -2.1%), Alabama (-6,100 jobs, -7.4%) and Kentucky (-5,000 jobs, -6.4%). North Dakota (-7.4%, -2,400 jobs) and Alabama lost the highest percentage for the year, followed by Kansas (-6.8%, -4,200 jobs), Kentucky and Mississippi (-4.9%, -2,300 jobs).
Twenty-five states and D.C. added construction jobs between November and December, with Arizona (3,700 jobs, 2.7%) and Massachusetts (3,700 jobs, 2.5%) adding the most. Other states adding a high number of construction jobs include Minnesota (3,500 jobs, 2.9%) Wisconsin (2,700 jobs, 2.4%) and Tennessee (2,700 jobs, 2.1%). Vermont (5.3%, 800 jobs) added the highest percentage of construction jobs during the past month, followed by Rhode Island (3.4%, 600 jobs), West Virginia (3.4%, 1,100 jobs) and Nevada (3.1%, 2,500 jobs).
Construction employment declined in 21 states during the past month and was unchanged in three states. California shed more construction jobs than any other state (-5,700 jobs, -0.7%), followed by Texas (-4,100 jobs, -0.6%) and Illinois (-3,200 jobs, -1.5%). North Dakota (-7.7%, -2,500 jobs) lost the highest percentage of construction jobs between November and December, followed by Montana (-3.7%, -1,000 jobs), Mississippi (-3.6%, -1,700 jobs) and Alabama (-3.3%, -2,600 jobs).
Association officials noted they have provided recommendations to the Trump administration on the best way to boost infrastructure investments and recruit and prepare future construction workers. “Done correctly, President Trump can help rebuild our aging infrastructure and the sector’s workforce,” Stephen E. Sandherr, chief executive officer for the association, said.