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Construction Employment Increases by 20,000 in December and 151,000 in 2019; Contractors Expect to Hire in 2020 but Anticipate Difficulty Filling Slots

January 10, 2020

Survey Finds Optimism about 2020 along with Even Tighter Labor Supply as Construction Unemployment Sets Record December Low; Association Calls for Government to Boost Career Opportunities, Immigration

Construction employment increased by 20,000 jobs in December and by 151,000, or 2.0 percent, in all of 2019, according to an analysis of new government data by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials noted that its recent survey found three out of four contractors expect to keep adding workers in 2020, but even more respondents found it difficult to fill positions in 2019, and a majority anticipate it will be as hard or harder to do so in 2020. Officials called on the federal government to increase funding for career and technical education and expand employment-based immigration for workers whose skills are in short supply.

“More than four out of five respondents to our survey said they were having a hard time filling salaried or hourly craft positions in 2019,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Nearly two-thirds of the firms say that hiring will be hard or harder this year. In light of those staffing challenges, costs have been higher than anticipated for 44 percent of respondents and projects took longer than anticipated for 40 percent of them. As a result, 41 percent of respondents have put higher prices into their bids or contracts and 23 percent have put in longer completion times.”

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