Construction Hiring Increases as Manufacturing Employment Remains Steady

June 5th, 2019 by Amber Galaviz

Despite a national labor shortage, the latest report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics displays notable growth in construction employment and a steady number of jobs in the manufacturing industries. Officials from the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) say both attracting and retaining workforce is the top concern of its members, yet manufacturers remain optimistic about their futures overall.

During the month of April, construction employment increased by 33,000 to about 7.5 million. Significant increases occurred among nonresidential specialty trade contractors (22,000) and in heavy and civil engineering construction (10,000). Those numbers were slightly offset by a loss of 2,500 jobs in residential building. In the year leading to April 2019, construction employment increased by 256,000.

Meanwhile, manufacturing employment only increased by 4,000 from March to April 2019 and by 204,000 since April 2018. According to the report, there was no change in employment for the manufacturing industry between last February and March 2019.

April job gains were primarily in the nondurable goods industry, with an increase of 3,000 jobs in the chemical manufacturing field and 2,700 in food manufacturing. In the durable goods sector, hiring among fields related to wood products grew by 1,400, while the fields of primary metals and machinery fields saw a declines (-2,100 and – 2,700, respectively).

However, the latest results from the NAM quarterly manufacturers’ outlook survey shows 90% of those surveyed felt optimistic about their companies’ outlooks. First-quarter results for 2019 mark the ninth consecutive quarter in which manufacturers had record-setting optimism regarding their companies’ futures. The average level of confidence among those surveyed was 92% over the past nine quarters. In 2015 and 2016, that level was an average of 69%.

“Manufacturing in the United States is on the rise, and manufacturers are confident about the future,” says NAM president and CEO Jay Timmons. “Empowered by tax reform and regulatory certainty, manufacturers are investing in our communities and in our people. But to keep up this momentum, we have to get serious about infrastructure investment and attracting, recruiting and training our people for the high-tech, high-paying modern manufacturing jobs of today and tomorrow.”

According to the survey, 71% of manufacturers said the inability to attract and retain a quality workforce remained their top business concern, with one in four noting they’ve had to turn away new business opportunities due to workforce shortages. Of those surveyed, 57% said rising health care and insurance costs were a primary business challenge, while 56% said increased raw material costs were a major concern. Additionally, 53% noted trade uncertainties as a business challenge.

More than 77% of the manufacturers who responded to the survey noted concerns about how the nation’s infrastructure is not up to standard and threatens their competitiveness, while 56% said a major infrastructure bill would positively impact their businesses.

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