Employment increased by nearly 7 percent in April, according to a report.
Southwest Florida’s labor-tight construction sector added 2,200 jobs in April, a 7.5% annual growth rate that outpaced state and U.S. gains.
The Sarasota-Manatee and Charlotte County metro areas were among 250 out of 358 nationwide where construction payrolls rose over the year, according to a new report from the Associated General Contractors of America.
Construction employment increased by 1,700 jobs, or 6.8%, last month in Sarasota-Manatee, while Charlotte added 500 jobs for a 12.2% increase.
The combined area topped the 4.2% rate of construction job growth posted in Florida and 3.5% in the U.S. in April.
Charlotte tied for 14th nationwide for percentage growth, and Sarasota-Manatee came in at 66th.
The labor shortage has impacted construction in the region for several years, slowing some large-scale developments by months. Many of the subcontractors who perform most of the labor at constructions sites — from carpenters to plumbers to drywall installers — say they cannot find the manpower to handle the surge of homes, condominiums, apartments, hotels and retail projects underway or planned.
“Demand for construction is steady or rising in most parts of the country, and many contractors are adding workers when they can find them,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “At the same time, many firms report they would have hired even more employees if only they could find enough qualified workers.”
A total of 31,300 workers were counted in the building trades in Southwest Florida, well off the April high of 37,800 in 2007 before the real estate market tanked. The low point for April was 15,900 jobs in 1993, the contractors group said.
Average hourly earnings in construction, a measure of all wages and salaries, has increased 3.3% over the year to $30.45. That figure was nearly 10% higher than the private-sector average of $27.70, AGC said in an earlier report.
Several local groups are working to boost the construction workforce. In April the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange hosted about 400 high school students at its annual “Construction Rodeo” at Manatee Technical College to introduce them to career opportunities in those trades.
“One reason relatively few young adults choose to pursue rewarding careers in construction is because not many of them are being told it is an option to consider,” said AGC chief executive Stephen E. Sandherr. “We have a lot of contractors looking for workers so they can keep up with the amount of work that is out there.”