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ABC: Construction employment exceeds pre-pandemic levels

By |  April 1, 2022

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The construction industry added 19,000 jobs in March, according to an Associated Builders & Contractors (ABC) analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

After 23 months of recovery, construction employment has at last exceeded pre-pandemic levels. On a year-over-year basis, industry employment has expanded by 220,000 jobs, an increase of 3 percent.

Nonresidential construction employment expanded by 11,300 positions, with all three subsectors generating growth. Heavy and civil engineering added 5,000 new jobs, nonresidential specialty trade contractors added 3,700 positions and nonresidential building added 2,600 jobs.

Construction unemployment fell to 6 percent in March, with unemployment across all industries declining from 3.8 percent in February to 3.6 percent last month.

“Contractors continue to signal that they are searching far and wide for additional workers,” says ABC’s chief economist Anirban Basu. “With more workers reentering the labor market, job openings continue to translate into employment growth. Given elevated backlog and the expectation that demand for services will remain high, according to ABC’s Construction Backlog Indicator, construction employment is poised to grow further this year.”

Basu adds the construction unemployment rate is well above the economy-wide rate.

“This is at odds with the notion of a severe worker shortage facing construction,” he says. “The issue relates to skill sets. While many refer to the current circumstances as a labor or worker shortage, it is perhaps more properly characterized as a skills shortage.

“With infrastructure spending set to rise and construction workers retiring at a rapid rate, skills shortages are likely to worsen going forward,” Basu says. “That translates into rapid wage growth. Given high and rising materials prices, project owners will continue to see elevated bids for construction service delivery, although how this will affect project postponements and cancellations remains unclear.”

Jack Kopanski

About the Author:

Jack Kopanski is the Managing Editor for Pit & Quarry and Portable Plants. Kopanski can be reached at 216-706-3756 or jkopanski@northcoastmedia.net.

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