Construction employment grew in 249 out of 358 metro areas between May 2018 and May 2019, declined in 57 and was unchanged in 52, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials said firms in many parts of the country would likely have added more workers if it were not for an acute shortage of qualified workers.

"Many of our member firms report they are having a hard time finding qualified workers to keep pace with demand for construction services," says Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's chief executive officer. "Even though firms are raising pay, boosting training and adding hiring incentives to recruit workers, many are still struggling to find as many employees as they need."

The Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Arizona, metro area added the most construction jobs during the past year (15,100 jobs, 12 percent). Other metro areas adding a large amount of construction jobs during the past 12 months include Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, California (9,200 jobs, 6 percent); Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, Georgia (8,600 jobs, 7 percent); Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas (8,200 jobs, 6 percent) and Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, Nevada (6,300 jobs, 10 percent). The largest percentage gain occurred in Monroe, Michigan (25 percent, 500 jobs) followed by Auburn-Opelika, Alabama (20 percent, 500 jobs); Spokane-Spokane Valley, Washington (18 percent, 2,600 jobs) and Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, Iowa-Ill. (17 percent, 1,700 jobs).

The largest job losses between May 2018 and May 2019 occurred in Baton Rouge, La. (-3,100 jobs, -6 percent), followed by Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights, Ill. (-2,800 jobs, -2 percent); Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, N.C.-S.C. (-1,900 jobs, -3 percent) and Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, Conn. (-1,600 jobs, -8 percent). The largest percentage decrease took place in Danville, Ill. (-17 percent, -100 jobs) followed by Atlantic City-Hammonton, N.J. (-15 percent, -1,000 jobs); Gulfport-Biloxi-Pascagoula, Miss. (-14 percent, -1,200 jobs); and Longview, Texas (-9 percent, -1,400 jobs).

Association officials said Washington leaders can help address construction workforce shortages by increasing funding for career and technical education programs to recruit and train domestic workers. Congress should also pass comprehensive immigration reform that allows more people with construction skills to legally enter the country. Association officials added that the Trump administration's decision to exclude construction from a new effort to make it easier to establish apprenticeship programs was a mistake.

"Instead of pushing every student into college, and college debt, Washington officials should make it easier for students to follow a debt-free path to high-paying construction careers," Sandherr says. "And the Trump administration should reconsider its misguided decision to exclude the construction industry and its many thousands of available positions from its new apprenticeship program."

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