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HomeAssociationsConstruction industry adds 23,000 jobs in February: Pickup in non-residential employment outweighs...

Construction industry adds 23,000 jobs in February: Pickup in non-residential employment outweighs dip in residential total

Washington Construction News staff writer

The construction industry added 23,000 jobs in February—the most since August—as a strong gain in employment at nonresidential contractors offset a small decline at residential firms, according to an analysis of new government data the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America released on March 8. Association officials noted that new figures on the number of job openings in the industry underscore the challenges firms are having finding enough qualified people to hire amid strong demand.

“Nonresidential contractors stepped up their hiring in February,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “But job-openings and spending data released earlier this month suggests hiring would be even more robust if construction firms could find enough qualified workers.”

Construction employment in February totaled 8,162,000, seasonally adjusted, an increase of 23,000 or 0.3 percent from the upwardly revised January total. The sector has added 215,000 jobs during the past 12 months, a gain of 2.7 percent. Employment at nonresidential construction firms—nonresidential building and specialty trade contractors along with heavy and civil engineering construction firms—climbed by 24,200 positions for the month and 158,500 (3.4 percent) since February 2023. Residential building and specialty trade contractors shed 1,200 employees in February but added 56,800 (1.7 percent) over 12 months.

Average hourly earnings for production and nonsupervisory employees in construction—covering most onsite craft workers as well as many office workers—climbed by 4.9 percent over the year to $35.21 per hour. Construction firms in January provided a wage “premium” of 18.5 percent compared to the average hourly earnings for all private-sector production employees.

Government reports on job openings and construction spending earlier this month show demand for construction workers and projects remains solid, Simonson said. Job openings in construction at the end of January totaled 407,000, not seasonally adjusted, topping the 352,000 workers hired. The job openings data implies that contractors want to hire far more workers than they can find, Simonson added. In addition, spending on projects under way that month totaled $2.1 trillion at a seasonally adjusted annual rate, 12 percent higher than a year earlier.

Association officials said federal officials need to boost funding for construction education and training programs to make sure there are enough people interested in construction careers to keep pace with strong demand. Especially since much of that demand is being driven by federal investments. They also urged Congress and the Biden administration to set aside partisan politics and enact measures to allow more people to lawfully enter the country to work in construction.

“Washington wants new infrastructure and construction projects but doesn’t seem willing to invest in encouraging Americans to work in construction or to allow others to pursue the American dream via this industry,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “The construction industry can rebuild our economy and create great careers in the process, but it can’t do either without workers.”

View the construction employment data.

Mark Buckshon
Mark Buckshonhttps://washingtonconstructionnews.com
Mark Buckshon is the publisher and interim editor of Washington Construction News. He is also president of the Construction News and Report Group of Companies. He combines a journalism and business background, and has published construction trade publications for more than 30 years, after an earlier career in journalism, which culminated when he lived through the transition from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe in 1978-80 as a sub-editor for the Bulawayo Chronicle and a correspondent for a Canadian news service.

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