31. Employment Projections and Current Unfilled Jobs in Construction
Construction employment is expected to grow by 12.9%, with 790,400 wage-and-salary jobs likely to be added between 2014 and 2024, according to the employment projections generated biennially by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS; chart 31a).1 While employment is not expected to exceed pre-recession levels (see page 20),1 the growth rate in construction is predicted to be one of the highest of all industries and twice the overall average growth (6.5%). In contrast, employment in manufacturing is expected to decline by 6.7%, a loss of 814,100 jobs over the ten-year period.1
Within construction, employment growth is expected to vary by trade. For example, employment in brickmasons is projected to increase by 23.6%, adding almost 15,400 new jobs (chart 31b). In addition, the demand for electricians is estimated to create about 81,200 new jobs — a growth rate of 19.0%. Overall, about 519,600 new wage-and-salary jobs are estimated to be added to construction trades (Standard Occupational Classification [SOC] code 47-0000; see page 25).
Workers who retire or leave the industry will also generate employment demand. In particular, welders, sheet metal workers, laborers, and ironworkers are expected to have the largest worker replacement needs in the ten-year period (chart 31c). Other occupations are projected to be relatively stable; replacement demand is projected to be less than 10% for brickmasons (8.4%), foremen (7.9%), and drywall installers (6.1%).
Replacement needs are estimated for each occupation by age cohort using the replacement rates in previous years.2 After combining job growth and replacement needs, it is estimated that from 2014 to 2024, the highest demand in construction will be for laborers and electricians, with 378,600 and 181,900 job openings, respectively (chart 31d). Given the number of new entrants expected in the construction industry in the next decade, and the industry’s elevated separation rate (including quits, layoffs, discharges, retirements, and disabilities), there will likely be a high demand for both occupational skills training as well as safety and health training.
The BLS also tracks current employment trends with the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), which provides important information on the number of people at each company who were hired, how many left (separations), and the number of unfilled positions at the end of each month (openings). Based on JOLTS data for the period January 2006 to December 2016, between 55% and 81% (about 3.4 to 5.1 million) of wage-and-salary construction workers left their employer voluntarily or involuntarily each year, compared to between 36% and 45% for all nonfarm industries.3 Construction workers typically work for multiple employers in a year, which may explain the high number of separations in this industry. The number of job openings was highest (273,000) in February 2007 during a time of strong construction employment, and lowest (25,000) in April 2009 during the recession. By July 2016, the number of job openings in construction was up to 225,000 as the economy recovered (chart 31e). The number of job openings is an important measure of the tightness of labor markets; a lower number of job openings during a recession may represent temporary or cyclical change, whereas a higher number of job openings can be expected during economic recovery.
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1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2015. Employment projections: 2014-24 summary. http://www.bls.gov/news.release/ecopro.nr0.htm (Accessed March 2016).
2. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2015. Estimating occupational replacement needs. http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_replacements.htm (Accessed March 2016).
3. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2006-2016 Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS). http://www.bls.gov/jlt/data.htm (Accessed March 2017).
All charts – Cover wage-and-salary employment only.
Charts 31a-31d – Employment projections include all occupations, but exclude the self-employed.
Chart 31a – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2015. Employment projections: 2014-24 summary. http://www.bls.gov/news.release/ecopro.nr0.htm (Accessed March 2016).
Chart 31b – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2014-2024 industry-occupation matrix data, construction. http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_table_108.htm (Accessed March 2016).
Chart 31c – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2014-2024 replacement needs. http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_table_110.htm (Accessed March 2016).
Chart 31d – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2014-2024 replacement needs, http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_table_110.htm (Accessed March 2016) and 2014-2024 industry-occupation matrix data, construction, http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_table_108.htm (Accessed March 2016). Calculations by the CPWR Data Center.
Chart 31e – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2006-2016 Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS). http://www.bls.gov/jlt/data.htm (Accessed March 2017).