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The Employment Forecast: Construction industry job growth off to strong start in 2015

It’s been a rocky road to recovery, but the economic outlook was much more positive in 2014 and so far, the same holds true in 2015. According to ENR, construction in 2015 began with upbeat employment numbers –the industry added 39,000 jobs in January, pushing the unemployment rate down to 9.8 percent, well below the 2014 level. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) monthly employment report, released Feb.6, 2015, shows all construction sectors recorded increased employment in January. Building construction jumped by 19,500 while specialty trades firms added 13,300 and heavy-civil construction gained 5,900 jobs according to the BLS report

Although the BLS classifies architectural and engineering services as a separate industry category, this sector also added 7,800 jobs in January 2015. In an ENR report, Ken Simonson, Associated General Contractors of America chief economist, says that with January’s increase, construction employment was more than 6.3 million, its highest level since February 2009.

Gaining momentum

This is a sure sign that the economic climate is improving, particularly in the multifamily market. “Contractors have stayed busy this winter and expect to keep hiring through 2015—if they can find the workers they need,” said Simonson. “The list of projects is growing in most states and most nonresidential segments, in addition to continuing strong demand for apartment buildings.”

In fact, construction has successfully added more jobs than all but one sector of the economy –retail markets. “The BLS report provides additional evidence that the economic momentum generated during the final nine months of 2014 will persist into 2015,” said Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors chief economist in a statement. 

Basu adds only one sector lost jobs in January –oil and gas extraction, which decreased by 1,900 jobs. “The decline in upstream oil and gas employement is attributed to declining oil prices,” he said. “Though data isn’t currently available, it seems likely that many of those displaced workers are in North Dakota and Texas. Given that those states have skilled-labor shortages, those displaced workers should be able to transition to the construction industry. This notion is supported by the construction unemployment rate’s brisk expansion.”

US Builders Review Construction Forecast

As construction professions rebound, what jobs will be in high demand? U.S. News & World Report has ranked the top industry jobs for 2015.

The ranking is based on jobs with the most hiring demand, or the highest projected number of openings from 2012 to 2022, as categorized by the BLS. Here are the jobs that made the U.S. News cut:

  1. Cost Estimator – Before field crews get to work a cost estimator coordinates with all parties –architects, engineers and construction managers to outline the technical and fiscal requirements of a job. According to the BLS, it’s a good time to enter this field as the occupation is estimated to swell by more than 26 percent before 2022. Average annual earnings: $63,660
  2. Construction Manager –Working with above cost estimators, construction managers must plan, budget and oversee a project from start to finish, one of the hardest jobs on site. The some 80,000 new managers expected to enter the field this decade should pursue a bachelor’s degree in construction management, architecture or engineering says U.S. News. Average annual earnings: $92,700
  3. Plumber – This highly trained set of essential professionals install, inspect and repair the pipes and fixtures that carry water, steam, air and gas and they’re in high demand in 2015. According to the BLS, there should be a hiring spurt of 21.3 percent for plumbers by the year 2022, which translates to about 82,300 new jobs. Average annual earnings: $53,820
  4. Sheet Metal Worker –Job opportunities in the sheet metal worker field are best for those who complete a lengthy five-year apprenticeship program. But the years of training will pay off as the BLS projects this occupation to grow steadily for years to come; by 2022 there could be as many as 22,000 new job openings. Average annual earnings: $47,440

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