Construction jobs are being created, but where are the workers?

Sixty-two percent of construction firms reported few or no qualified applicants

While job creation and employment has continued at a consistent pace, there is an area that needs workers.

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Sixty-two percent of construction firms reported few or no qualified applicants and 46 percent cited the shortage of qualified labor as their top business problem.

“The inability to assemble work teams is a key contributor to the comparably lackluster performance of the construction industry as evidenced by the December figures,” said NFIB’s Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. “Owners are raising compensation in order to attract more qualified applicants to fill open positions.”

Construction workers at a new building site in Silver Spring, Maryland. (REUTERS/Gary Cameron)

The manufacturing sector reported comparable figures with 63 percent and 24 percent respectively.

Down from last month, 33 percent (seasonally adjusted) of all owners reported job openings they could not fill in the current period.

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics will release its final jobs report for the year on Friday morning, and it’s forecast to show employers added 164,000 jobs in December, according to a poll from Refinitiv — below blockbuster gain of 266,000 in November, but still solid. Unemployment is projected to hold steady at 3.5 percent, a half-century low, while paychecks are expected to have climbed 0.3 percent.

Finding qualified workers remained the top issue for owners in December, with 23 percent reporting it as their number one problem. Fifty-three percent reported hiring or trying to hire, but 94 percent of those owners reported few or no qualified applicants for the positions they were trying to fill.

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Small business owners continued to hire employees, add new positions, and raise compensation in December, ending 2019 on a strong note, according to NFIB’s monthly jobs report.

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A historically high percentage of owners have raised and plan to raise worker compensation, with a net 29 percent reported raising compensation (seasonally adjusted) in the last three months and a net 24 percent plan to do so in the coming months. Seven percent of owners cited labor costs as their top problem.