Construction employers added 16,000 jobs, and the sector's unemployment rate fell to 7 percent, the lowest rate for September in years, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials said the construction employment gains come as more firms report having a hard time finding enough qualified workers to fill available positions, citing the lack of local vocational training programs.
Construction employment totaled 6,079,000 in September, the highest total since May 2009, with a 12-month gain of 230,000 jobs, or 3.9 percent. Residential building and specialty trade contractors added a combined 11,800 employees since August and 129,400 (5.9 percent) over 12 months.
Nonresidential building and specialty trade contractors hired a net of 3,700 workers for the month and 100,300 (2.7 percent) since September 2013. But heavy and civil engineering contractors, which perform the majority of public-sector construction, increased their headcount by only 500 in September and 29,000 (3.3 percent) over the year amid tight government budget conditions.
The number of workers who said they looked for work in the past month and had last worked in construction fell to 604,000 in September. The last time the number of unemployed construction workers dropped that low was August 2007, a time when the construction industry was struggling with widespread construction worker shortages that prompted project delays and increased costs.
Association officials said many firms cite the lack of local, secondary-level vocational programs as one of the causes for the worker shortages.
“Labor shortages happen when a growing industry meets a stagnant pool of qualified workers,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's CEO. “It is time to align our education and training systems with current economic conditions so more young people can benefit from the rebound in construction demand.”