The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 5021, a bill that would fund surface transportation projects through May 2015, by a 367-55 vote on July 15, 2014.

Construction Employment Strengthening, Trade Associations Report

U.S. construction employment hit a five-year high in August 2014 and is rising twice as fast as total nonfarm employment, the Associated General Contractors of America recently reported.

Employment in the U.S. construction industry rose by 20,000 jobs in August 2014 to a five-year high, with sector unemployment falling to 7.7 percent, which was the lowest rate for August in seven years, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America. AGC officials said Sept. 5 that their surveys indicate many contractors are having trouble finding enough qualified workers.

"Construction employment growth has been accelerating and is broad-based," said Ken Simonson, AGC's chief economist. "The increase in the past 12 months was the largest since 2006 and was spread among residential, nonresidential building, and heavy construction."

Last month, Associated Builders and Contractors Chief Economist Anirban Basu, American Institute of Architects Chief Economist Kermit Baker, and National Association of Home Builders Chief Economist David Crowe also expressed confidence about a healthy construction sector for the rest of this year. "A combination of low interest rates, wealth effects stemming from a booming stock market and rising home prices, surging energy production, and expanding industrial output has helped position the U.S. economy for more rapid growth during the next several quarters," Basu said. "This will lead to more robust recovery in the U.S. nonresidential construction industry, which has also been aided by stable materials prices and improving commercial real estate fundamentals. ABC predicts 7 percent nominal nonresidential construction growth in 2014, despite ongoing challenges in the public construction segment."

AGC's analysis showed construction employment totaled 6,068,000 in August, which was the highest total since May 2009 and reflected a 12-month gain of 232,000 jobs, or 4.0 percent, more than double the 1.8 percent growth rate for total nonfarm employment. "These job numbers, along with data this week on construction spending in July and reports from the Federal Reserve and the Institute of Supply Management, point to continued recovery by the construction sector," Simonson said. "However, the fact that the number of unemployed experienced construction workers is now at the lowest August level since 2007 means more contractors may soon have trouble filling key positions."

"As contractors are starting to find it is easier to get work, it is becoming increasingly difficult to hire qualified workers," said Stephen E. Sandherr, AGC's chief executive officer. "We need to make it easier for schools, local associations, and private firms to establish programs that expose students to, and prepare them for, high-paying careers in construction."

BLS reported Sept. 11 that preliminary numbers from its Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries showed fatalities in construction and extraction occupations were 6 percent lower in 2013, at 818. Fatal injuries among construction trades workers were 5 percent lower, at 571 fatalities in 2013, than in 2013. The 2013 count of construction trades worker fatalities is 42 percent lower than the high of 977 fatal work injuries reported in 2006.

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