Courtesy Adobe Stock/arhon

Construction employment increased by 1,000 jobs in November and by 146,000 in the past 12 months, according to an analysis of government data by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association (AGC) officials say the modest increase in monthly employment is more likely a reflection of a tight labor market than a letup in demand.

“Contractors report they remain busy and have lots of projects on their order books,” said AGC chief economist Ken Simonson. “But they find it extremely difficult to fill many positions despite paying more than other industries. That’s not surprising, given that the total unemployment rate returned to a 50-year low in November—a sign that all industries are competing for workers.”

Simonson observed that the average weekly hours for all employees in construction increased from 38.7 in November 2018 to 39.1 in November 2019, even though construction employment rose by 2.0% over the year. In contrast, weekly hours for the overall private sector remained flat at 34.4 hours, while total nonfarm employment increased by 1.5%.

“One takeaway from these numbers is that contractors are adding workers faster than other sectors, but they are eager to hire even more people to keep pace with strong demand for projects,” Simonson said. “To make up for the shortfall, many firms are asking workers to put in more hours.”

Average hourly earnings in construction—a measure of all wages and salaries—increased 2.7% over the year to $31.08. That figure was 10.2% higher than the private-sector average of $28.29, the association official noted.

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