An estimated 36,000 construction jobs were added to the economy during January, according to an analysis of government data by the Associated General Contractors of America.

The surge raised industry employment to its highest level since November 2008. Employers are boosting pay to help stem a chronic industry shortage, AGC officials said.

"This report aligns with what contractors have been telling the association — that the construction industry is still eager to add workers," said Ken Simonson, the association's chief economist. "The employment gains would be even larger if there were enough workers with the right skills available to hire."

Construction employment totaled 6.8 million, a figure that’s 2.6 percent higher than a year ago. Average industry hourly pay increased 3.2 percent to $28.52 per hour.

The AGC is asking lawmakers to expand and fund industry training programs to boost the numbers of qualified potential workers.

"Contractors have the 'Help wanted' signs out and are offering good pay and benefits," said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's chief executive officer. "We need government at all levels to revitalize and better fund programs to educate and train the next generation of construction craft workers."