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Construction employment makes gains; workforce shortages loom

Human Resources
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Construction employment in South Carolina climbed by 4.7% between May 2016 and May 2017, but officials warn workforce shortages threaten to impact the industry.

For the 12-month period between May 2016 and May 2017, the number of construction-related jobs rose by 4,400 positions, according to an analysis of U.S. Labor Department data by the Associated General Contractors of America.

Nationally, 42 states added construction jobs during the 12-month stretch amid growing demand for construction services, while 25 states and the District of Columbia lost construction jobs between April and May, the group reported.

Meanwhile, the number of construction-related jobs in the Palmetto State rose to 98,000 in May, up 1.9% or 1,800 jobs, from April’s figure of 96,200. South Carolina ranked fifth among U.S. states in percentage increase.

Association officials said workforce shortages appear to be impacting construction employment in parts of the country.

"There is still plenty of private-sector demand for construction projects, so it is likely that some states with monthly employment declines have a shortage of workers rather than a slowdown in work," said Ken Simonson, chief economist for the association. "Given the low unemployment rate in most states, it is hard for contractors to find new construction workers, let alone experienced ones."

Washington can help address growing labor shortages in the construction industry by putting in place measures that expand training opportunities for students and young adults, the association said. This includes expanding investments in secondary career and technical education, making it easier to establish apprenticeship training programs in all market types and allowing for more charter schools and career academies that focus on construction skills.

"Having the president talk about the need for more craft workers in fields like construction is helpful," Stephen E. Sandherr, CEO for the association, said. "Now it is time to act on those good intentions by putting in place measures to expand training opportunities for people considering careers in construction."

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