Construction Unemployment Falls to 9.8 Percent, Lowest June Level Since 2008

The unemployment rate forconstruction workers fell below double digits in June for the first time since2008 as every segment of the industry added employees, according to an analysisof new government data by the Associated General Contractors of America.Association officials said the relatively positive jobs report for the sectorhighlights the need to address potential shortages of skilled and entry-levelworkers.

“Construction employment in Junewas the highest since August 2009,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chiefeconomist. “But employment is still down by one-quarter from the peak more thanseven years ago. Many of those laid-off workers have left the industry—whetherfor employment elsewhere, more education or retirement — and constructioncompanies face a looming worker shortage.”

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The unemployment rate for workerswho last worked in construction declined to 9.8 percent from 12.8 percent inJune 2012, not seasonally adjusted, and the number of unemployed constructionworkers dropped by 214,000 to 825,000. The latest numbers were the best June figuresfor each series since 2008, Simonson noted.

Construction employment in Junetotaled 5,812,000, an increase of 190,000 or 3.4 percent over the past year.Aggregate weekly hours of all new and existing construction employees expandedby an even larger 4.7 percent, as companies put more workers on overtime.

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“The number of unemployed workerswith construction experience has fallen to low enough levels that firms in agrowing number of locations and segments are having trouble finding people withthe needed skills,” Simonson commented. “Contractors have filled the gap so farby adding to workers’ hours but this ‘solution’ may be reaching its limit.”

Residential and nonresidentialcontractors have added workers in nearly equal numbers, Simonson observed. Residentialbuilding and specialty trade contractors added 5,200 in June and 90,200 (4.4percent) over 12 months. Nonresidential building, specialty trade and heavy andcivil engineering construction firms grew by 8,400 workers in June and 99,800(2.8 percent) from a year earlier. In a favorable sign for future constructiongrowth, architectural and engineering services employment rose by 2.6 percentover the year.

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Association officials said some ofthe future worker shortages that will come if the industry continues to addjobs over the coming months might still be averted. They urged educationofficials to rebuild skills-based, or vocational, educational programs designedto help prepare students for careers in construction and manufacturing. Andthey urged Congress and the administration to reject the arbitrary caps onconstruction workers that are currently included in the Senate’s immigrationlegislation.

“Now that demand for constructionis finally picking up, it is vital to ensure that the industry can find enoughqualified workers,” said association CEO Stephen E. Sandherr. “There areactions that policy makers should take now before a worker shortage cuts shortthe industry’s recovery.”

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