Construction employment nationwide increased by 7,000 jobs in September and by 2.1% in the past 12 months, the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) reports. The AGC's analysis finds the number of unemployed jobseekers with construction experience reached a record-low in September while average hourly earnings in the industry rose in the past years. The more modest increase in industry employment month-to-month reflects the tight present labor conditions, according to AGC officials.

“Contractors foresee plenty of projects to bid on, and nearly three-fourths of firms expect to add workers during the next twelve months, but most are finding it hard to find qualified workers to hire,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist, referring to the results of a survey the association released in late August. “That’s not surprising, given that the total unemployment rate hit a 50-year low in September—a sign that workers are hard to come by throughout the economy.”

Simonson observed that the 2.1% growth in construction employment between September 2018 and September 2019 was the slowest in more than six years but that the rate remained well above the 1.4% increase in total nonfarm payroll employment. There were 319,000 unemployed jobseekers who last worked in construction—an unemployment rate of 3.2% for such workers. Simonson noted those were the lowest September levels since the series began in 2000.

Average hourly earnings in construction—a measure of all wages and salaries—increased 2.2% over the year to $30.81. That figure was 9.7% higher than the private-sector average of $28.09, the association official noted. He added that two-thirds of firms responding to the association’s survey had raised base pay rates for hourly craft workers in the past year because of difficulty in filling positions, while 58% of firms had done so for salaried workers. Many respondents also reported providing incentives, bonuses and larger contributions to benefit plans.

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