Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas and Cheyenne, Wyo. Post the Largest Gains Over 12 Months; Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Fla. and Niles-Benton Harbor, Mich. Experience the Worst Declines in Past Year
Construction employment increased in two out of three U.S. metro areas between May 2021 and May 2022, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America of new government employment data. Association officials noted that a lack of qualified workers kept employment down in many metro areas.
“Construction employment has rebounded from post-pandemic lows in most metro areas,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “But near-record low unemployment and historically high job openings show that employment would be even higher if enough qualified workers were available.”
The number of jobseekers with construction experience tumbled by nearly 40 percent over the past year, from 642,000 in May 2021 to 392,000 last month, the economist noted. He said this indicated a scarcity of qualified workers available to hire in many metro areas.
The government’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey showed that there were 494,000 job openings in construction at the end of April–the largest total for that month in the 22-year history of the survey, Simonson observed. Openings exceeded the 455,000 employees hired in April, which suggests that construction firms would have added twice as many employees if they had been available, the economist asserted.
Construction employment rose in 248 or 69 percent of 358 metro areas over the 12-month period. Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas added the most construction jobs (23,800 jobs or 11 percent), followed by Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas (11,800 jobs, 8 percent); St. Louis, Mo.-Ill. (5,500 jobs, 8 percent); and Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights, Ill. (4,900 jobs, 4 percent). Cheyenne, Wyo. had the highest percentage gain (35 percent, 1,200 jobs), followed by Decatur, Ill. (21 percent, 700 jobs) and Lawton, Okla. (20 percent, 300 jobs).
Construction employment declined in 62 metro areas from May 2021 and was unchanged in 48 areas. The largest losses were in Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Fla. (-5,600 jobs, -7 percent), followed by Richmond, Va. (-2,000 or -5 percent), and Middlesex-Monmouth-Ocean, N.J. (-1,600 jobs, -4 percent). The largest percentage declines were in Niles-Benton Harbor, Mich. (-13 percent, -300 jobs); Lewiston, Idaho-Wash. (-12 percent, -200 jobs); and Greenville, N.C. (-8 percent, -300 jobs).
Association officials said that construction employment would have been higher in many parts of the country if firms could find more workers to hire. They added that many firms are also coping with shortages of some key construction materials and rising costs for many others. They urged public officials to boost support for programs that expose young adults and workers to construction opportunities and skills.
“Most people go through school and much of the career without ever being exposed to the fact they could be making good money and advancing rapidly via careers in construction,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Without that exposure, too few people choose to pursue the many opportunities available in construction.”