US construction wages hit $35 an hour

Construction job vacancies hit a record 457,000 in October (Josh Olalde/Unsplash)
Average wages for US construction site and office workers rose by 5.9% over the year to November, hitting $34.96 an hour, says employers group the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC).

The sector added only 2,000 new jobs in November, a steep drop from the 23,000 added in October, but that’s likely down to the scarcity of workers, not falling demand for construction, the AGC said.

In the 12 months to November, the sector added 200,000 jobs, a gain of 2.6% that outpaced the 1.8% job growth in the overall economy.

“The steep rise in pay for craft and other hourly workers, along with an earlier report of record job openings heading into November, indicate that contractors are still struggling to find enough skilled workers,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “The slowdown in employment is a sign of how tight the job market is, not an indication that construction demand is lagging.”

Construction firms in November provided a wage “premium” of more than 19% compared to the average hourly earnings for all private-sector production employees, the AGC said.

At the end of October the latest US government data showed there were 457,000 vacancies in construction, the highest October total in the 23-year history of the data series.

The AGC said labour shortages were holding back growth for the industry.

It urged federal and state governments to spend more on construction training programmes and to let more people enter the country legally to work in the industry “as short-term relief until more domestic workers are available”.

“Exposing more people to construction career opportunities will put more people to work and make it easier to build,” said AGC chief executive Stephen E. Sandherr.

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