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April construction jobs up 17K for post-recession high

Construction industry employment surged by 17,000 jobs in April, reversing March's loss of an upwardly revised 10,000 positions, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday. Since April 2017, the construction sector has added 257,000 new jobs, bringing total industry employment to 7.17 million, a post-recession high. This is still approximately 550,000 off the April 2006 prerecession peak of 7.726 million, but employment has trended up since hitting its 5.43 million low in January 2011.

The nonresidential sector gained a net 9,000 jobs in April — nonresidential building (+5,100), heavy and civil engineering construction (-3,400) and nonresidential specialty trade contractors (7,300). According to the Associated General Contractors of America, a 3.5% average industry pay hike to $29.63 helped recruit some of the new workers represented in this month's BLS report.

The average construction wage is 10.4% higher than that of all other non-farm industries, and the uptick in pay, according to the AGC, is finally starting to draw in those who already have construction experience. In fact, the number of those with construction experience looking for work in the industry increased by 38,000 since April 2017.

It's a no-brainer that higher wages will bring in more experienced workers, but the focus of construction industry groups is still re-creating the pipeline that used to see young people enter the trades right out of high school.

The AGC has consistently called for federal funding of these vocational programs, but, according to an Entrepreneur opinion piece by Anthony C, CEO of Consi Construction Co., money also needs to flow to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education. Consi wrote that many industry employees need an understanding of the science and engineering behind the projects. Through STEM education and career development programs, Consi said, the industry could also increase the number of women and other diverse populations.

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