Association Official Says Labor Shortages are Keeping the Construction Sector from Adding Even More Jobs, Urges New Public Investments in Construction Workforce Development and Training Programs

Construction firms added 32,000 jobs in July as the sector’s unemployment rate fell to 3.5 percent and the number of unfilled construction positions approaches record levels, according to an analysis of federal employment data released today by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials said the job gains were welcome news but would have been higher if firms could find more workers to hire.

“Construction firms are doing their best to add new workers to keep pace with strong demand for construction,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Despite the month’s big gains, the industry’s job gains would have been even higher if there were more people available to hire.”

Total construction employment moved up to 7,706,000 in July as both residential and nonresidential construction firms added jobs for the month. Nonresidential firms added 18,300 employees including 4,900 at general building contractors, 10,300 at nonresidential specialty trade contractors, and 3,100 at heavy and civil engineering construction firms. Employment in residential construction—homebuilders, multifamily general contractors, and residential specialty trade contractors—increased by 14,100 between June and July.

Compared to July 2021, the construction industry has added 311,000 jobs, an increase of 4.2 percent. The nonresidential sector added 190,800 of those yearly job gains, an increase of 4.4 percent. Meanwhile, residential construction firms added 120,800 jobs between July 2021 and July 2022, an increase of 4.0 percent.

The unemployment rate among jobseekers with construction experience fell from 6.1 percent in July 2021 to 3.5 percent in July 2022 month, Sandherr noted. He added that the construction unemployment rate is at the lowest July level in four years. Meanwhile, the number of unemployed construction workers fell by 233,000, or 39 percent, to 359,000.

Sandherr added that as the number of unemployed construction workers declined, job openings in construction surged. There were 330,000 job openings in construction at the end of June, which is the second highest number of job openings for the month in the 22-year history of the construction industry job opening series, which federal officials released earlier this week.

Association officials said the challenge is too few people are aware of the many opportunities and benefits available of working in construction. The bulk of federal education funding is designed to encourage students to attend college and pursue office-style jobs, Sandherr noted. As a result, many workers are unaware they could be earning a good salary, with little to no college debt, in the construction industry.

“It is time to start telling Americans there are multiple paths to success and that one of those paths is a career in construction,” Sandherr said. “Investing in infrastructure and chip plants is important but investing in the people to build those facilities is essential.”

View the construction employment table.