By KERRY SMITH, EDITOR, ST. LOUIS CONSTRUCTION NEWS AND REVIEW MAGAZINE
No surprise to St. Louis construction industry employers, the AGC of America’s latest economic update July 16th reports the highest number of construction job openings, year over year, in nearly two decades.
AGC Chief Economist Ken Simonson’s report details an increase of 90,000 job openings – a 32 percent jump as of the end of May as compared to one year earlier, and the highest total for May since the AGC’s monthly Data DIGest began publishing in year 2000.
In addition, Simonson reported that the construction industry hired 526,000 individuals in May 2019 (no seasonal adjustment).
“Together, the record-high job openings at the end of May, a record-low construction unemployment rate in June and a nearly 50-year low for the total unemployment rate underscore the challenge that contractors face in finding acceptable workers to hire,” Simonson said.
AGC of Missouri President Leonard Toenjes said although St. Louis isn’t seeing the jump in construction job openings that the U.S. coasts are, the concern here is nonetheless palpable.
“These workforce-related conditions hit the coasts and the border states first and then eventually reach us,” said Toenjes. “It’s not here yet, but once construction of the NGA (National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s) new headquarters begins and all the development around that enormous project gets going, a more significant increase in construction job openings in our region is likely to occur.”
Other St. Louis mega-projects preparing to start that will also contribute to the need for more construction workers include the Interstate 270 highway bridge span replacement and lane widening of a 16-mile stretch from Lilac Avenue in Missouri to Illinois Route 111.
“Our (employment) activity in the St. Louis construction market is up,” added Toenjes, “but when we measure it in terms of work hours, the increase at this point is more indicative of an 8 percent to 11 percent jump rather than the 32 percent increase that’s recorded nationally.”