Construction employment increased by 20,000 jobs in December and by 151,000, or 2.0 percent, in all of 2019, according to the Associated General Contractors of America. Officials noted that its recent survey found three out of four contractors expect to keep adding workers in 2020, but even more respondents found it difficult to fill positions in 2019.
“More than four out of five respondents to our survey said they were having a hard time filling salaried or hourly craft positions in 2019,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Nearly two-thirds of the firms say that hiring will be hard or harder this year. In light of those staffing challenges, costs have been higher than anticipated for 44 percent of respondents and projects took longer than anticipated for 40 percent of them. As a result, 41 percent of respondents have put higher prices into their bids or contracts and 23 percent have put in longer completion times.”
Simonson observed that both the number of employed workers with recent construction experience (489,000) and the unemployment rate for such workers (5.0 percent) were the lowest ever for December in the 20-year history of those series.
According to the AGC report, association officials said the optimistic outlook for projects depends on having an adequate supply of qualified workers. Officials urged the Trump administration and congress to double funding for career and technical education over the next five years, and pass the JOBS Act to expand opportunities for students seeking alternatives to college.