U.S. construction jobs flatline as employers struggle to hire

Construction employment was flat in August, while the unemployment rate fell and many companies reported difficulty finding workers, according to a government data analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America.

Construction employment held steady at 5,798,000 jobs in August, the same as the July total, revised up by 5,000 from an initial estimate one month ago. The August number is 3 percent higher than the construction employment total at the same time in 2012, but has been nearly flat since March 2013.

Spending in the construction industry has also changed little between May and July, the latter being the most recent month available.

Despite the lack of growth, the unemployment rate for workers actively looking for jobs and last employed in construction fell to 9.1 percent last month from 11.3 percent in August 2012 — the lowest August rate since 2008.

“After a strong rebound in 2012, construction hiring and spending have been stuck in neutral through most of 2013,” Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist, said in a release. “Yet the unemployment rate for former construction workers hit the lowest August level in five years, suggesting that experienced workers are leaving the industry rather than returning to it. As a result, firms are already having trouble finding workers.”

A whopping 74 percent of construction firms responding to an association survey released Sept. 4 reported having difficulty filling certain craft-worker positions. Likewise, more than half of respondents said they are also having problems filling professional positions. — Julie Strickland

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