April 04, 2020
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Maine lost construction employment in November amid labor shortage

Lori Valigra | BDN
Lori Valigra | BDN
(Left to right) Denis Landry, president of Landry/French Construction; Matt Marks, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of Maine; Bob Hews, president of truck equipment supplier Hews Co.; and Ken Simonson, chief economist of the Associated General Contractors of America in Arlington, Virginia, talk to reporters at Hews' headquarters in South Portland about the need for more large projects to stimulate the industry and the waning ranks of workers in Portland and South Portland. The Bangor metropolitan area saw a rise in the number of construction workers in the past year.

The number of construction jobs in Maine declined in November after rising in October, a sign that the labor shortage in that market is continuing, experts said.

Maine saw construction jobs decrease for the year, from 28,300 in November 2017 to 28,100 in November 2018, and for the month from 28,600 in October 2018, according to the Associated General Contractors of America in a survey released Friday.

Peak construction employment in Maine since 1990 was 31,900 in April 2006. The November 2018 employment is 12 percent lower than the peak.

Maine’s construction employment figures contrast with the national average, which rose in 42 states and the District of Columbia from November 2017 to November 2018. Employment rose monthly in 23 states from October to November.

Association officials said extremely low unemployment rates in most of the nation have made it hard for contractors in many states to add workers, despite strong demand caused by projects.

“November was the first month this year in which fewer than half the states experienced monthly increases in construction employment,” the association’s chief economist, Ken Simonson, said. “At a time when job openings are at record highs, the recent slowdown in hiring in some states may indicate contractors are unable to find qualified workers, rather than a slackening in demand for construction.”

The economist noted that job openings in construction totaled 292,000 at the end of October, up 59,000 from a year earlier and the highest October level in the 18 years that the data have been published.

The number of unemployed jobseekers with recent construction experience — 352,000 — was the lowest yet for October. The figures suggest contractors in many states cannot find experienced workers to fill vacancies, Simonson said.

Association officials said the soaring level of job openings points to the urgency of implementing effective career and technical education programs for potential construction workers.

“Contractors in many parts of the country are ready and willing to offer high-paying jobs with great career advancement opportunities,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Federal, state and local officials should facilitate those opportunities by modernizing and adequately funding appropriate education and training programs.”

 


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