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Monday, June 06, 2016

Construction loses 15K jobs as labor shortage begins to 'undermine' industry's growth

By Emily Peiffer 

Dive Brief:

The construction industry lost 15,000 jobs in May, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Associated General Contractors of America reported Friday. April's figures were also revised down from a 1,000-job gain to a 5,000-job loss.

Construction employment was at 6,645,000 in May. Despite the fact that the industry lost so many jobs last month, year-over-year employment totals were 3.4% higher than May 2015. Average hourly earnings in construction rose 2.6% in May to $28.04 — nearly 10% higher than the average across the private sector.

Within the industry, the nonresidential construction sector lost 10,300 jobs, while the residential sector shed 4,400 jobs.

Dive Insight:

Although the labor shortage has been an ongoing concern for construction companies, the AGC noted that May's steep drop in employment signals that tight labor conditions could finally be "reaching the point where they undermine the sector’s growth."

AGC Chief Economist Ken Simonson noted in a release that the facts that overall employment in construction is strong and that average pay is significantly higher than the overall private sector signal that contractors "have plenty of work but are struggling to find qualified workers to hire."

Construction employment has seen a sudden slowdown in the last two months, as job numbers skyrocketed in the first three months of the year. However, along with those strong employment gains, experts warned that employers were draining the pool of existing talent and running out of people to hire. Those predictions were unfortunately realized in May.

The industry labor shortage has led some experts to suggest supporting new marketing efforts, a greater focus on technical training in school, immigration reform and a broad coalition effort as possible solutions. "We need public officials to provide the funding and flexibility needed to allow for more career and technical education in this country," AGC CEO Stephen Sandherr said in a release.