- Unemployment rate sets 24-year low of 3.6 percent and craft workers’ hourly pay tops $34
- Construction gains were evenly split between residential and nonresidential firms for the month, but near-record job openings at end of may point to ongoing challenges in finding qualified workers
The construction sector added 23,000 jobs in June while the sector’s unemployment rate fell to the lowest rate ever for the month and pay levels in the industry continued to rise, according to an analysis of new government data the Associated General Contractors of America released on July 7, 2023.
Association officials said there appears to be plenty of demand for construction services and that employers likely would have added even more jobs if they could find more workers to hire.
“There was no letup in demand for construction workers in June, while the supply of available workers remained exceptionally tight,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Both residential and nonresidential construction are expanding despite concerns about overall economic growth and inflation.”
Construction employment in June totaled 7,947,000, seasonally adjusted, an addition of 23,000 or 0.3 percent from the month prior. The sector has added 198,000 jobs during the past 12 months, an increase of 2.6 percent. Nonresidential construction firms—nonresidential building and specialty trade contractors along with heavy and civil engineering construction firms—added 12,200 employees in June. Meanwhile, employment at residential building and specialty trade contractors grew by 10,800.
The unemployment rate among jobseekers with construction experience dipped from 3.7 percent in June 2022 to 3.6 percent, the lowest June rate in the 24-year history of the data. A separate government report released earlier this week reported that there were 396,00 job openings in construction at the end of May, the second-highest May total in series history and a further sign of contractors’ difficulty in finding qualified workers.
Average hourly earnings for production and nonsupervisory employees in construction—covering most onsite craft workers as well as many office workers—climbed by 5.7 percent over the year to $34.09 per hour. Construction firms in May provided a wage “premium” of more than 18 percent compared to the average hourly earnings for all private-sector production employees.
Association officials noted that construction firms and AGC of America are working hard to identify, recruit, train and employ new workers. But they said labor conditions were extremely tight, noting relatively few workers are exposed to construction career opportunities. They faulted federal officials for investing far less in education programs that focus on skills needed in industries like construction in favor of encouraging most students to go to college.
“Holding photo ops with construction workers is great, but it would be a lot more helpful if politicians actually invested in construction-focused education and training,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “The more we expose current and future workers to the high-paying career opportunities available to them in construction, the more likely they are to pursue those careers.”
View the construction employment data.