The construction industry added 11,000 jobs in September as unemployment rates for the sector remained at historically low levels, prompting contractors to raise pay faster than for other jobs, according to an analysis of government data the Associated General Contractors of America released in October. Association officials noted that the number of people working on nonresidential construction projects declined for the month as firms struggle to find enough workers to hire amid tight labor conditions.
“Construction firms have plenty of projects but a dip in nonresidential employment last month shows how hard it has been to find enough skilled workers,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Job openings remain stubbornly high, even though the industry has been raising hourly pay at an elevated rate.”
Construction employment in September totaled 8,014,000, seasonally adjusted, with a gain of 11,000 or 0.1% from August. The sector has added 217,000 jobs during the past 12 months, an increase of 2.8%. Residential building and specialty trade contractors added 12,600 employees in September and 55,300 (1.7%) over 12 months. Employment at nonresidential construction firms—nonresidential building and specialty trade contractors along with heavy and civil engineering construction firms—declined by 1,300 positions for the month but increased by 161,600 (3.5%) since September 2022.
The unemployment rate among jobseekers with construction experience was 3.8% in September, one of the lowest September rates in the 24-year history of the data. A separate government report released earlier this week reported that there were 360,00 job openings in construction at the end of August, the second-highest August total in series history and a further sign of contractors’ difficulty in finding qualified workers.
Average hourly earnings for production and nonsupervisory employees in construction—covering most on-site craft workers as well as many office workers—climbed by 5.5% over the year to $34.54 per hour. Construction firms in August provided a wage “premium” of nearly 19% compared to the average hourly earnings for all private-sector production employees.