Construction lobby: Unemployed contractors finding jobs, but not in their industry

Simonson said the downturn in the construction industry started earlier than in other sectors — in 2006, he said — and that it was more difficult for the industry to recover amid the sluggish national economy.

The number of construction workers finding work in other industries is not helping, he added.

“It is tough to attract and retain workers when employment gains are so spotty,” Simonson said. “With workers finding jobs in other industries, retiring or returning to school, contractors face a potential shortage of skilled workers in a year or two.”

Like lawmakers in favor of a new federal transportation bill that Congress will begin conference negotiations on this week, the construction association said a highway bill would improve the employment picture in their industry.

“Instead of hiring workers for desperately needed improvements to the nation’s transportation network, contractors must wait to see if lawmakers pass more than a short-term, no-increase highway and transit bill,” ACGA CEO Stephen Sandherr said in a statement. “Meanwhile, other federal appropriations for water, wastewater and building infrastructure have been cut for two years in a row, with further cuts likely, making the jobs outlook even grimmer, unless Congress passes adequately funded, long-term bills now.”

The conference committee of lawmakers that has been appointed to negotiate an agreement between the chambers of Congress on the highway bill is scheduled to hold its first meeting Tuesday.