"Contractors have stayed busy this winter and expect to keep hiring through 2015 if they can find the workers they need," said Ken Simonson, AGC

Construction's Back on Track

With 39,000 jobs added in January 2015 and 308,000 in the past year, construction employment is at its highest level since February 2009, AGC reports.

The U.S. construction sector added 39,000 jobs in January 2015 and construction contractors have increased employment by 308,000 during the past year, reaching the highest employment total since February 2009 and dropping construction's unemployment rate to 9.8 percent, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America. AGC announced the good news Feb. 6, saying most construction firms reported they plan to hire this year but are concerned about growing shortages of qualified workers. In January 2014, the sector's unemployment rate stood at 12.3 percent.

"Contractors have stayed busy this winter and expect to keep hiring through 2015 if they can find the workers they need," said Ken Simonson, the association's chief economist. "The list of projects is growing in most states and most non-residential segments, in addition to continuing strong demand for apartment buildings."

AGC said construction employment totaled 6,314,000 in January, and the addition of 308,000 jobs during the past year represented a 5.1 percent gain. Residential building and specialty trade contractors added a combined 20,100 employees since December and 162,400 (7.2 percent) over 12 months. In addition, the number of workers who said they looked for work during the past month and had last worked in construction fell from 1,045,000 one year earlier to 811,000, which is the lowest January number since January 2000.

"The combination of rapidly rising employment, good prospects for 2015, and a depleted pool of unemployed workers with construction experience means contractors may have a hard time filling jobs with the workers they need in coming months," Simonson said. "Worker availability challenges have replaced a lack of projects as the biggest worry for many contractors."

AGC had reported days earlier that construction spending rose in December 2014 to a six-year high of $982 billion. "Construction firms appear ready to add jobs this year at the fastest rate in a decade," said Stephen E. Sandherr, AGC's chief executive officer. "But those employment gains depend on finding new ways to expose and prepare high school students for high-paying careers in construction."

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