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State notches year-over gain of 7,100 construction jobs, data shows

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South Carolina added 7,100 construction jobs between January 2016 and January 2017, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America of U.S. Labor Department data.

The year-over 7.8% increase in jobs was the sixth largest gain among all states and the District of Columbia, the Arlington, Va.-based trade group said in a press release issued Monday.

Construction employment, though, declined by 100 jobs between December and January, the association said. At the end of January, 98,300 South Carolinians were working in the construction business.

Altogether, 38 states and D.C. added construction jobs between December and January, Association officials said that many firms report they are having a hard time finding enough qualified workers to hire as they work to keep pace with growing demand.

"Even as firms continue to find ways to expand their headcount, they are increasingly concerned about the lack of available, qualified workers," said Ken Simonson, chief economist for the association. "There is only so much firms can do to attract the limited number of qualified workers before labor shortages begin to impact their operations."

Association officials again urged federal leaders to act on a series of measures they outlined in recommendations to the Trump administration and Congress to bolster the supply of qualified workers even as they work to enact new measures to improve the nation's aging infrastructure. Those measures include boosting funding for career and technical education programs, making it easier for firms to set up regional training programs and making Pell grants eligible for career and community college programs.

"The growth in construction demand is outstripping the growth in the supply of qualified construction workers," Stephen E. Sandherr, chief executive officer for the association, said. "Federal officials have a great opportunity to attract and prepare even more people for high-paying careers in construction that will cut unemployment and boost the economy."

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