A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

AGC Data DIGest: Aug, 26-Sept. 7, 2022

Worker openings widen, AGC-Autodesk survey finds; employment increases in August

The search for workers has intensified from a year ago, according to results from the 2022 AGC of America- Autodesk Workforce Survey, which AGC posted on August 31. Of the 1,266 responses received between July 6 and August 15, 93% of firms had open positions for hourly craft workers (up from 90% in the 2021 survey) and 70% had openings for salaried workers (up from 62%). Among firms with open positions 91% report having a hard time filling craft positions and 89% report the same for salaried positions. As in 2021, the most common reason for difficulty, cited by 77% of respondents (72% in 2021), was “available candidates are not qualified.” Base pay rates were increased by 86% of firms (73% in 2021). Even more respondents than in 2021 reported delays in completing projects due to: longer lead times or shortages of materials—82% of firms (75% in 2021), shortages of workers (their own or subcontractors’)—66% (61% in 2021), or delivery delays—64% (57% in 2021). Firms are experiencing mixed impacts on upcoming or expected projects. Respondents reported that upcoming or expected projects have been canceled, postponed, or scaled back due to: cost increases (58% of respondents), lengthening or uncertain completion times (33%), or changes in demand/need (20%). More positively, 28% reported there are more projects to bid on or projects have been expanded in scope. Most firms expect to add employees in the next 12 months: 71%, compared to 24% that expect to maintain current headcounts and 5% that expect to shrink. Results are broken out by region and 20 states, three revenue size ranges, four project types, and union vs. open-shop firms.

Construction employment, seasonally adjusted, totaled 7,708,000 in August, an increase of 16,000 from the downwardly revised July rate and 311,000 (4.2%) year-over-year (y/y), according to AGC’s analysis of data the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) posted on Friday. Residential construction employment, comprising residential building and specialty trade contractors, rose by 10,900 in August and 118,700 (4.0%) y/y. Nonresidential construction employment—at building, specialty trades, and heavy and civil engineering construction firms—climbed by 4,300 for the month and 191,600 (4.4%) y/y. The number of unemployed jobseekers with construction experience fell 10% y/y to 401,000, and the industry’s unemployment rate, not seasonally adjusted, declined from 4.6% to 3.9%. Average hourly earnings for production and nonsupervisory employees in construction rose 5.9% y/y to $32.57 per hour. The increase less than the 6.1% rate for the overall private nonfarm sector, and the “premium” for hourly construction workers narrowed to 17.7% over the private sector average of $27.68, compared to an average premium in 2000-2019 of 21.5%.

There were 393,000 job openings in construction, not seasonally adjusted, at the end of July, an increase of 29,000 (8.0%) from July 2021, BLS reported on August 30. That was the largest July total in the 22-year history of the series and the 17th consecutive month of rising y/y openings. Hires rose by 32,000 (7.8%) y/y to 442,000. Layoffs and discharges edged up by 8,000 (6.8%) y/y to 125,000. Quits held nearly steady at 243,000 (up 1,000 or 0.4% y/y).

Construction spending (not adjusted for inflation) totaled $1.78 trillion in July at a seasonally adjusted annual rate, down 0.4% from June but up 8.5% y/y, the Census Bureau reported on Thursday. However, without a deflator, it is impossible to say how much of the y/y gain is in units vs. price. A 1.5% monthly decline in private residential construction spending (-4.0% for single-family, -0.6% for multifamily, negating a 1.5% increase in owner-occupied improvements) outweighed gains in nonresidential spending. Private nonresidential construction spending rose for the third-straight month, by 0.4% from June and 3.1% y/y. The largest private nonresidential segment (based on seasonally adjusted spending in July 2022)—commercial—increased 0.7% for the month (including warehouse, up 2.0%, and retail, -0.9%); followed by power, unchanged for the month (with electric power up 0.6% and oil and gas field structures and pipelines down 1.9%); commercial, -0.6% for the month but up 11% y/y (including warehouse, -0.7%, and retail, -1.7%); manufacturing, up 0.6% (including computer/electronic/electrical, up 2.7%, and chemical and pharmaceutical, up 1.2%); and office and data centers, up 0.1%. Public construction spending increased 1.5% for the month but 3.3% y/y. The largest public segment, highway and street construction, jumped 4.3% for the month. Public education construction dipped 0.1%. Public transportation construction climbed 1.4%.

Construction employment, not seasonally adjusted, rose from July 2021 to July 2022 in 250 (70%) of the 358 metro areas (including divisions of larger metros) for which the BLS posts construction employment data, fell in 59 (16%) and was unchanged in 49, according to an analysis AGC released on August 29. (BLS reports combined totals for mining, logging, and construction in most metro areas, to avoid disclosing data about industries with few employers. AGC treats the changes as being solely from construction.) Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land again added the most jobs (31,000 construction jobs, 15%), followed again by the Dallas-Plano-Irving division (9,900 combined jobs, 7%) and the Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights division (8,100 combined jobs, 6%). The highest percentage gains occurred in Cheyenne, Wyo. (17%, 700 combined jobs), followed by Bloomington, Ill. (16%, 500 combined jobs) and Duluth, Minn.-Wis. (16%, 1,500 combined jobs). The largest losses again occurred in Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford (-6,300 construction jobs, -8%) and Bergen-Hudson-Passaic, N.J. (-3,400 jobs, -11%). The largest percentage decline again occurred in Bergen-Hudson-Passaic, followed by Monroe, Mich. (-10%, -200 combined jobs).