Association Survey Finds Contractors Are Struggling To Find Skilled Employees
An Associated General Contractors of America report of government data found that the construction sector gained 17,000 employees in December 2023, as wages rose at a faster rate than other industries.
The AGC also reported that respondents to a contractors’ survey found that contractors expect to hire more construction workers in 2024, but are struggling to find enough qualified workers to perform the tasks.
“The above-average wages that the construction industry pays have helped contractors add workers,” said AGC Chief Economist Ken Simonson. “More than two-thirds of firms in our survey say they plan to expand in 2024 but they expect it will be as hard or harder to do than it was in 2023.”
Construction employment in December totaled a seasonally adjusted 8,056,000, which is an increase of 17,000 from November. The sector added 197,000 jobs during the past year, a gain of 2.5 percent, which outpaced the 1.7 percent job growth in the overall economy.
Employment at nonresidential construction firms – nonresidential building and specialty trade contractors, in addition to heavy and civil engineering construction firms – rose by 11,900 positions for the month and 157,300 (3.4 percent) since December 2022.
The average hourly earnings for production and nonsupervisory employees in construction – covering most onsite craft workers, as well as many office workers – increased by 5.1 percent over the year to $34.92 per hour. Construction firms in December reported a wage “premium” of nearly 19 percent in comparison to the average hourly payments for all private-sector production employees.
About 69 percent of the nearly 1,300 respondents to the AGC survey said they expect to increase to their firm’s headcount in 2024, while only 10 percent expect to decrease the headcount. However, just over half (55 percent), including both union and open-shop employers, expect it will be as difficult, if not more, to do so than in 2023.
Association officials observed that contractors will likely have trouble completing the infrastructure, renewable energy and advanced manufacturing projects the Biden administration is counting on, unless they can hire enough skilled workers. They urged officials in Washington to reconstruct employment-based immigration policies and boost funding for career and technical education programs that will allow more people to qualify for rewarding jobs in construction.