The latest construction employment data from the Associated General Contractors of America showed employment growth in two-thirds of the measured metros in November, but contractors are still voicing concerns about a labor shortage affecting overall recovery.
Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, Texas added the largest number of construction jobs in the past year (16,200 jobs, 9 percent); followed by Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas; Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, Ill. and Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Wash. The largest percentage gains occurred in Pascagoula, Miss. (24 percent, 1,500 jobs); followed by Fargo, N.D.; Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin, Fla. and York-Hanover, Pa.
The largest job losses from November 2013 to November 2014 were in Bethesda-Rockville-Frederick, Md. (-3,600 jobs, -11 percent); followed by Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, Ariz.; Edison-New Brunswick N.J.; Gary, Ind. and Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla. The largest percentage decline for the past year was in Steubenville-Weirton, Ohio-W.Va. (-39 percent, -900 jobs); followed by Cheyenne, Wyo.; Fond du Lac, Wis. and Gary, Ind.
Association officials noted that most contractors report they are having a hard time finding qualified workers to fill key positions as demand rebounds. They cautioned that if labor conditions get even tighter, contractors will have to pass on new projects, and possibly delay existing ones, because of a lack of workers. Indeed, 25 percent of contractors reported over the summer they were already declining to bid on certain projects because of the lack of available workers.
"It is time to start rebuilding the once robust career and technical education programs that used to exist in most school districts around the country," said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's chief executive officer. "Without a solid network for preparing future workers, we are likely to spend much of 2015 talking about how the construction industry is failing to keep up with demand."