Report: Construction employment up, but gains slow, labor pool deficient

Construction employment in July climbed to the highest level since February 2009, while the number of unemployed workers with construction experience shrank to a 14-year low, the Associated General Contractors of America said on Tuesday.

However, association officials cautioned that the diminishing pool of available qualified labor may be having an impact on the industry’s ability to meet growing demand.

“It is encouraging to see construction employment rising again, but the industry could hire many more workers if they were available,” Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist, said. “The lack of experienced construction workers may be impeding the industry’s ability to start or complete new projects. The recent acceleration in construction spending may soon level off unless the sector can draw in more workers with the right skills.”

Construction employment totaled 6,383,000 in July, the most since early 2009, but the total rose by only 6,000 in July and by an average of only 7,200 per month over the past five months, Simonson said. The number of unemployed workers who reported last working in construction totaled 474,000, the lowest amount since 2001.

“The sector’s job gains in the past five months have been intermittent and relatively sluggish, despite signs of accelerating demand for construction,” Simonson said.

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