Construction employment decreased by 31,000 jobs in February as extreme winter weather gripped much of the nation. However, continuing year-over-year employment and wage increases that exceed those in other industries suggest there has been no letup in demand for projects, according to an analysis of new government data by the Associated General Contractors of America.
Construction employment totaled 7,422,000 in February, an increase of 223,000, or 3.1 percent, since February 2018. That growth rate was nearly double the 1.7 percent gain in total nonfarm payroll employment, the economist pointed out. Average hourly earnings in construction—a measure of all wages and salaries—increased 3.1 percent over the year to $30.45. That figure was more than 10 percent higher than the private-sector average of $27.66.
In a survey the association released in January, more contractors reported they expect the dollar volume of projects available to bid on to expand than to shrink in 2019 in each of 13 project categories. In addition, 79 percent of construction firms reported that they expect to add employees in 2019. However, nearly as many—78 percent—reported they were having trouble filling some positions and 68 percent said they expected that hiring would remain difficult or become harder.
Association officials said that, despite the headline number, all indications are that demand for construction remains strong and that firms continue searching for qualified candidates to hire. They called on federal officials to double investments in career and technical education programs to expose more high school students to construction opportunities.