RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Workforce challenges continue to plague businesses in almost every industry. For the construction industry, it has slowed down efforts to bring employment back to pre-pandemic levels.

The Association of General Contractors said while construction employment has increased in two out of three U.S. metro areas, companies are still having trouble finding qualified workers.

“Near-record low unemployment and historically high job openings show that employment would be even higher if enough qualified workers were available,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist.

The association said jobseekers with construction experience fell by 40 percent over the last year. While AGC said there were 642,000 experienced job seekers in 2021, there were just 392,000 in May 2022.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics counted 494,000 job opening in the construction field at the end of April. Even with some jobs being added, that was still up from 353,000 job openings counted in April 2021.

Companies hired 354,000 workers in April, up from the 334,000 hired in April 2021.

Triangle-area construction worker changes

In North Carolina, the Greensboro-High Point area has experienced struggles with keeping employees. The area lost 200 employees in the construction field. It translated into a 1 percent drop in construction employees.

Greenville saw even steeper drops with an 8 percent loss in construction employees. At least 300 people there left the industry.

’21 Employment’22 Employment% Change
Durham-Chapel Hill9,4009,5001%
Rocky Mount2,5002,6004%

Construction jobs in the Triangle saw small but encouraging increases. Fayetteville saw their count of constriction employees go up 6 percent from May 2021 to May 2022. The metro area added 3,000 workers during that time frame. The Raleigh area added 2,000 new construction workers in that same time frame for an increase of 5 percent.

AGC said construction employment would have been higher if firms could find more workers to hire.

“Most people go through school and much of the career without ever being exposed to the fact they could be making good money and advancing rapidly via careers in construction,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. 

Nationwide, Cheyenne, Wyoming saw the largest increase in construction employees with a 35 percent increase between May ’21 and May ’22. They were followed by Decatur, Illinois who saw a 21 percent jump in employees. Lawton, Oklahoma was a close third with a 20 percent increase in workers.