Labor shortages still impacting construction despite job growth

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Florida Construction News staff writer

New York City and Baton Rouge, La. recorded the largest job gains in the U.S. over the last 12 months while Houston, Texas and Kankakee, Ill. experienced the highest losses.

Construction employment increased in 226, or 63 percent, of 358 metro areas between October 2022 and October 2023, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) of new government employment data. Association officials noted that tight labor market conditions kept construction employment from increasing in even more metro areas.

“Construction employment keeps growing in a solid majority of metro areas but many more would be in the plus-column if contractors could find qualified workers,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “With construction unemployment hovering around 4 percent, it’s clear there aren’t enough jobseekers available to fill all the openings.”

New York City added the most construction jobs (14,600 jobs, 10 percent), followed by Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas (11,000 jobs, 7 percent); Baton Rouge, La. (9,400 jobs, 20 percent); Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, Ore.-Wash. (8,300 jobs, 10 percent); and Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Mass. (7,800 jobs, 10 percent). The largest percentage gains were in Baton Rouge, La., followed by Lexington-Fayette, Ky. (13 percent, 1,800 jobs); Grand Rapids-Wyoming, Mich. (13 percent, 3,700 jobs); Corvallis, Ore. (13 percent, 200 jobs); and Toledo, Ohio (12 percent, 1,700 jobs).

Construction employment declined over the year in 54 metros or 15 percent of all areas and was unchanged in 78 areas. The largest job loss occurred in Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas (-11,500 jobs, -5 percent); followed by Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colo. (-5,300 jobs, -5 percent); Orange-Rockland-Westchester, N.Y. (-4,500 jobs, -9 percent); and Nassau County-Suffolk County, N.Y. (-4,500 jobs, -5 percent). The largest percentage decrease occurred in Kankakee, Ill. (-13 percent, -200 jobs), followed by Bay City, Mich. (-12 percent, -200 jobs); Binghamton, N.Y. (-11 percent, -500 jobs); Pittsfield, Mass. (-9 percent, -200 jobs); and Orange-Rockland-Westchester, N.Y.

Association officials pointed to the fact relatively few schools offer programs focused on construction as one reason not enough workers are seeking positions in the industry, despite the high wages available.

“Policy makers need to expose more students to construction career opportunities and accept new workers if they truly want new infrastructure, clean energy and manufacturing facilities,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Instead, they aren’t interested in encouraging students to pursue construction careers or willing to offer a legal path for others to pursue those opportunities.”

View the metro employment data, rank, and top 10.

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