The number of people working in the construction industry last month reached its highest level in nearly four years, the Associated General Contractors said.
Construction employment in May totaled 5.8 million people, an increase of 189,000 workers, or 3.4%, over the year-ago period, AGC said. Builders added 7,000 jobs between April and May of this year, the group said.
Total construction employment is now at its highest level since August 2009, AGC said, citing its own review of federal data.
The unemployment rate for workers who last worked in construction dropped to 10.8% last month from 14.2% a year ago, the group said. The number of unemployed construction workers shrank during that time by 259,000 people, to 891,000. The May unemployment figure represents is the lowest in five years, the group said.
“Both residential and nonresidential construction have been adding workers at roughly double the rate of the overall economy in the past year,” said Ken Simonson, the association's chief economist.
Residential building and specialty trade contractors added 94,400 workers in the twelve-month period, and 5,500 workers between April and May, the group said.
Nonresidential building, specialty trade and heavy and civil engineering construction firms grew by 95,500 from a year earlier, and 1,700 workers since April.
Simonson warned that this growth could soon lead to a worker shortage in the industry.
“Formerly unemployed construction workers are finding jobs in other sectors, retiring or going back to school. These conditions may lead abruptly to worker shortages in parts of the industry, such as welders and pipefitters,” he said.