The Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale metro area added the most construction jobs of any metro area in the nation during the past twelve months, according to an analysis released by the Associated General Contractors of America today. As local construction firms expand their payrolls, the national association and its local chapters are taking steps to prepare the next generation of construction workers amid significant construction worker shortages.
“Phoenix has gone from being the poster child for the construction depression to the best job market for construction workers in the country,” said Brian Turmail, national spokesman for the Associated General Contractors of America. “Yet the construction industry in Arizona and across the country faces significant and costly workforce shortages.”
Turmail noted that the Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale metro area added 13,800 new construction jobs between March 2018 and March 2019, an 11 percent increase. He added that the area added the most construction jobs among the 358 metro areas the association tracks. There are 134,900 people working in construction in the Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale area today, up from a post-recession low of 80,000 in March 2011.
The association spokesman said the Phoenix area was not alone when it comes to adding construction jobs. Nationwide, 218 out of 358 metro areas added construction jobs during the past year, including the Tucson, Prescott and Flagstaff metro areas. But he cautioned that the 2019 Construction Hiring & Business Outlook the association released earlier this year found that 78 percent of contractors report having a hard time finding qualified workers to hire.
Turmail noted that construction employment is expanding in most parts of the country at a time when many older workers are retiring and too few young adults are considering high-paying careers in construction. He noted that one reason for that is that public investments in career and technical education have declined significantly for much of the past several decades. That is why the association released its new Workforce Development Plan, which outlines a series of steps federal officials should take to make it easier to establish construction training programs, he added.
The plan calls for doubling federal funding for career and technical education programs over the next five years. It also calls on federal officials to evaluate schools based on how many students graduate into high-paying jobs like those available in construction, in addition to how many enter college. And the plan calls for comprehensive immigration reform that allows more individuals with construction skills to legally enter the country, a path to legal status for workers already in the country and measures to secure the border.
Turmail added that the association is also working to recruit more young adults in the construction industry. He noted that the association recently launched a targeted digital advertising campaign in Phoenix and other fast-growing metro areas designed to attract a broad range of younger people into the industry. And he noted that the association’s local chapters, the Arizona Chapter, AGC and the Arizona Builders Alliance, as well as the broader local business community, are taking steps a range of steps to address workforce shortages.
“Phoenix would be adding even more new construction jobs if our member firms could find people to hire,” said David Martin, the president of the Arizona Chapter, AGC. “Yet one of the surest paths to a good career and middle class life style is working in the state’s construction industry,” he added, noting that construction jobs pay 10 percent more than the average job nationwide.
“Arizona’s education system is not producing enough builders,” said Tom Dunn, the president of the Arizona Builders Alliance. “But too few people appreciate the many benefits of pursuing construction careers, which is why we are working with a broad business coalition to launch a new region-wide construction recruiting campaign later this year.
“Unless we can find a way to encourage more young adults to pursue high-paying careers in construction, contractors in Arizona and across the country will face significant workforce shortages,” the construction association spokesman added.