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Construction employment reaches highest level since 2008

OMSAjan2_klh Joe Moravec, an employee of Magill Construction Co., Inc., Elkhorn, install J-bolts during a footing wall pour Friday Jan. 27 at Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Associates LTD in Mukwonago. Magill is the general contractor the 4,828-squre-foot building. (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

Magill Construction’s Joe Moravec install J-bolts during a footing wall pour on Jan. 27 at the new Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Associates building in Mukwonago. In January, national construction employment reached its highest level since 2008. (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

National construction employment reached its highest level in January since 2008, as wages in the industry pushed ever higher, according to a trade group.

Employment in the industry increased by 36,000 jobs from December to January, according to an analysis of seasonally adjusted federal data by the Associated General Contractors of America. The roughly 6.8 million people working in the industry in January were the most seen in any month since November 2008.

Hourly earnings in the industry, meanwhile, increased 3.2 percent over the year-long period running through January, rising to $28.52 an hour. Hourly earnings in construction are rising faster than those for all private-sector workers on average, which were up 2.5 percent in the year-long period.

Average wages for all private-sector workers were also slightly lower — at about $26 an hour.

“This report aligns with what contractors have been telling the association — that the construction industry is still eager to add workers,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “The employment gains would be even larger if there were enough workers with the right skills available to hire.”

The industry added 170,000 new jobs from January 2016 to January 2017, according to an analysis of the same jobs data by the Associated Builders and Contractors, a group that largely represents non-union companies. That comes out to a 2.6-percent increase.

Moreover, the nonresidential construction sector added 14,900 new jobs for the month, and the residential sector added 20,300 jobs.

“Today’s employment report indicated growing strength in construction along a variety of dimensions,” said Anirban Basu, chief economist of ABC.

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