Building Boom in Southern California adds 35,700 jobs

If Southern California was a separate state, it would be the biggest creator of construction jobs in the nation.

Construction bosses in the five-county region hired one-sixth of all new U.S. construction workers in the past year, and local pay hikes in the industry have easily doubled what’s handed out elsewhere.

Local builders and developers are busy — at a noteworthy pace trying to keep up with the region’s need for housing and infrastructure. Here are some interesting statistics we discovered about demand for the region’s construction workers, according to data from the Associated General Contractors of America and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Construction bosses in Riverside and San Bernardino counties added 15,800 jobs in the 12 months ended in August, up 17 percent. The Inland Empire had the largest increase in construction work of any metro area in the nation.

Los Angeles County’s addition of 11,000 construction jobs (up 8 percent) was second followed by Las Vegas (up 10,900 jobs, 20 percent); Portland (up 8,500 jobs, 13 percent) and Tampa-St. Petersburg (up 7,400 jobs, 10 percent). Orange County added 6,100 jobs, or 6 percent, to tie Orlando for the No. 6 spot. San Diego added 2,800 jobs or 4 percent.

Southern California’s hiring spree — 35,700 jobs in the five counties — equaled 16 percent of the 214,000 construction jobs added nationwide in the past year. The region’s 444,000 construction workers are just 6 percent of the industry’s 6.92 million jobs nationwide.

Southern California hiring tripled the rest of the California’s 11,700 new construction job. So, if the state was split into two, statistically speaking, the local building industry’s hiring spree (35,700 jobs in the past year) was larger than any other state’s increase in construction jobs.

At the state level, California added the most construction jobs in the year: an increase of 47,400 jobs, or a 6.1 percent jump. The No. 2 hiring spree was in Florida (up 35,000 jobs, or 7.3 percent); then Louisiana (up 15,300 jobs, or 11.1 percent); Texas (up 15,200 jobs, or 2.2 percent) and Nevada (up 11,600 jobs, or 15.3 percent).

Growing construction crews come as 62 percent of California construction bosses polled said they were challenged to find hourly craftsmen, and 27 percent said they expected hiring headaches to increase. Nationwide, unemployment of skilled construction workers is at a 17-year low.

Southern California is by no means alone in the building boom. Construction employment increased in 274 out of 358 U.S. metro areas in the past year. And yearly job gains were found in 34 states and Washington, D.C. Nationwide, construction jobs grew at a 3.2 percent pace over the 12 months vs. a 1.7 percent increase for all industries.

Pay data, from the 12 months ended in March, shows local construction bosses paying higher wages to attract qualified workers. Orange County weekly wages rose 10.2 percent in a year; San Bernardino, up 9 percent; San Diego, up 8.4 percent; Riverside, up 7.9 percent; Los Angeles, 7.8 percent. Nationwide, construction wags rose 3.5 percent in the period and 4.8 percent statewide.

This is good news for all of us in the AEC industry!