Construction Employers Add 11,000 Jobs in October, Employment Hits 50-Month High

Construction employment hit a 50-month high as employersadded 11,000 jobs in October, the fifth consecutive month of sector job gains,and the industry unemployment rate fell to 9 percent, according to an analysisof new government data by the Associated General Contractors of America.

Association officials said that the new employmentfigures indicate there was little nationwide short-term impact from the federalgovernment shutdown and cautioned that skilled worker shortages are likely togrow as the industry continues to expand.

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“After some very dramatic declines and years of sluggishgrowth, the construction industry is slowly adding jobs,” said Ken Simonson,the association’s chief economist. “The federal government shutdown did notappear to have undermined construction job growth in the short term probablybecause it did not significantly impact projects that were already under way.”

Construction employment totaled 5,834,000 in October, anincrease of 185,000 from a year earlier, and is now at the highest level sinceAugust 2009. Simonson noted that the October increase was the fifth consecutivemonth of construction job growth. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate for workersactively looking for jobs and last employed in construction declined from 11.4percent in October 2012 to 9 percent last month.

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Nonresidential construction firms added 6,600 new jobs inOctober while residential firms added 4,800 jobs. Within the nonresidentialsector, heavy and civil engineering firms – which are most likely to performfederal construction work – added only 200 jobs. The modest increase for thatsector was likely caused by declining public sector demand and not the federalshutdown, Simonson noted.

As the industry continues to add new jobs, many firmsreport they are having a hard time finding qualified workers to fill keypositions. The number of unemployed construction workers has declined at afaster rate than the industry has added jobs as laid-off workers either retireor found work in other sectors. During the past three years, the number of unemployedconstruction workers has declined by 712,000 while construction firms haveadded 323,000 new jobs, Simonson said.

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Association officials said another reason constructionemployers were worried about finding enough qualified workers is the limitednumber of career and technical education and training programs that exist. Theynoted that many school districts have eliminated vocational education programs,during the past several decades. They said they were preparing a series ofproposals to increase the number of career and technical education and trainingopportunities that they will release later this year.

“While we have a long way to go before constructionemployment hits pre-recession levels, we need to take steps now to keep up withgrowing demand,” said association CEO Stephen E. Sandherr. “The last thing wewant is for the lack of qualified workers to undermine the sector’s recovery.”

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