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Home / Commercial Construction / Nonresidential contractors struggle to find qualified workers as construction industry adds 16,000 jobs

Nonresidential contractors struggle to find qualified workers as construction industry adds 16,000 jobs

Kevin Lewis, an employee of Tri-North Builders, Inc., touches up a slab edge in October 2015 on the 13th floor of the now-complete Galaxie mixed-use building in Madison. The project resulted in the construction of roughly 500,000-square-foot, 14-story development on the site of the former Don Miller auto dealership. (File photo by Kevin Harnack)

Even as construction companies added 16,000 jobs in August, nonresidential contractors were still being held back by a lack of skilled labor, according to a survey conducted by Associated General Contractors of America. 

“Nonresidential construction activity is growing but contractors universally report difficulty hiring many workers as they need,” AGC chief economic Ken Simonson said in a statement. “With the industry unemployment rate hovering below 4%, finding qualified applicants is sure to remain a major challenge.” 

Construction employment climbed to a total of 7.7 million in August as jobs were added in both the residential and nonresidential sectors, the association said in a statement. Nonresidential firms added 4,300 employees. General building contractors saw gains of 700 jobs and nonresidential specialty trade contractors of 5,600 jobs, helping to offset a loss of 2,000 job at heavy-construction and civil-engineering firms. Residential-construction firms, including homebuilders and multifamily general contractors, added 10,900 jobs last month. 

Unemployment among jobseekers with construction experience fell to 3.9% in August 2022, down from 4.6 % in August 2021, the association said. 

Across all types of construction firms, 93% reported having open positions and 91% reported having trouble filling at least some craft positions, the survey analysis by AGC and Autodesk showed. Of the responding companies, 77% said at least some of their candidates lacked the skill needed to work in construction, the survey added. In other cases, applicants were not able to pass a drug test, which insurance companies require for all construction jobs. 

Similar results were reported among union and non-union contractors, companies worth less than $50 million and companies worth more than $500 million, in all regions of the country, the analysis said. The responses were also similar regardless of if they came from contractors working in building construction, highway and transportation projects, or on federal, heavy work and utility infrastructure projects. 

Simonson called on public officials to boost funding for construction-focused training programs to expose more workers to opportunities within the industry. “The industry has the work; it just needs the workers,” he said. 

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