Construction industry workers got quite a present this holiday season. Ironically, there weren't a lot of them around to open it. According to a study conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), 48,000 new jobs in the construction industry were added in December of 2014. More than six million people were employed in the construction industry by the end of 2014. 290,000 new jobs in the construction field were added for the entire year, the industry’s largest employment gain since 2009. Hiring gains broke down as:
- Residential And Speciality Trade- 132,000 jobs (6%)
- Non-Residential- 158,000 jobs (4.3%)
- Heavy Construction and Civil Engineering- 57,900 jobs (6.6%)
In a press release related to the study, Ken Simsonson, AGC's chief economist, stated that the increased hiring reflected the improving fortunes of the industry. Everyone loves a story with a happy ending, right? But wait. This one has a caveat.
Because while there are plenty of new jobs within the industry, employers are having difficulty finding qualified workers to fill them. The AGC study noted that while employment demands are increasing, construction workers are leaving the industry at a rate not seen since 2000. For example, in December of 2014, 680,000 applicants with construction experience sought work within the industry as opposed to 958,000 a year earlier. To compensate for fewer workers, employers often resort to overtime. Non-supervisory and production workers recently saw their workweeks increase on average to 40.1 hours, something that hasn't been seen since 1947.
So why and where did all these workers go? As the Great Recession impacted on the industry, many unemployed workers chose to retire or move into other fields of work. However, as a report released by Dodge Data and Analytics (formerly McGraw-Hill Construction) indicates, a changed playing field within the industry made it difficult for these workers to return as well.
The Dodge report explains construction industry statistics, and how the industry rebounded to embrace green and sustainable construction techniques. With no training or technique experience, many workers were no longer qualified to work in former positions. Also contributing to the shortage the report explains, is the decision of skilled workers to work overseas for higher pay and more opportunities.
Since 2015 and beyond look to be big years for residential, infrastructure, and non-retail commercial construction projects, the industry needs to staunch its loss of skilled workers. Experts quoted in the AGC study indicated that they hoped this could be done by creating and funding more educational opportunities for students that were construction industry oriented.