The state of employment across the country and in Missouri has been one of slow job growth and stagnant wages since the Great Recession of 2007.

Image provided by Associated General Contractors of Missouri

But a trade group representing one industry claims conditions are far better for its workers. The Asociated General Contractors of Missouri (AGC) says construction workers are in short supply and their wages are far higher than average.

The organization released the new AGC of America Workforce Survey during its annual “BuildMO Week” which wraps up Friday.  It found that the industry contributed almost 4%, or $11 billion of the state’s $301 billion Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Construction wages totaled $7 billion in Missouri. According to the survey, industry workers’ pay averaged $56,000, which is 20% more than all private sector employees in the state.

The study also showed that there’s a critical shortage of skilled workers statewide. About 71% of Missouri contractors surveyed said they have difficulty filling some hourly craft positions and 20% report they are having trouble filling some salaried field positions. About 41% report they are having difficulty filling some office salary positions.

Republican State Representative Bill Reiboldt of Neosho recently told Missourinet that the Missouri Transportation Department sent construction workers south of the state border to help with interstate highway construction.

“A lot of our construction people have gone to Arkansas to work through the northwest Arkansas area,” said Reiboldt. “I-49 has really changed.”

AGC Missouri kicked off BuildMO Week Monday with a conference in Springfield, which included a bipartisan group of elected and business leaders.

Democratic state Representative Crystal Quade of Springfield, Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce President Matt Morrow and Springfield Mayor Ken McClure joined AGC President Len Toenjes to highlight a partnership that could help connect job seekers with positions in the worker-starved Missouri construction industry.

The AGCMO Student Chapter at Ozarks Technical Community College (OTC) was recently established, which offers networking and industry opportunities for students.  Toenjes thinks the partnership will help boost employment numbers in Missouri’s construction sector.

“The career and technical education programs provided at OTC and other schools throughout our state are so important,” said Toenjes.  “The hiring situation is very favorable right now for students trained in the trades.”

OTC Chancellor Dr. Hal Higdon says the job picture is outstanding for people who get the proper training. “We know from our follow-up surveys that 100% of our construction technology graduates are employed,” said Higdon. “There are plenty of job opportunities in construction for people with the right skills who are willing to work hard.”

According to the AGC survey, construction employed more than 118,700 people throughout the state in August. Toenjes thinks the shortage of available construction workers is tied to acute economic problems during the previous decade.

“In 2008 when we had our severe economic downturn, we lost a lot of skilled craft workers. And now 10 years later as we’re coming back out of this, those folks are gone. They’ve gone on to other careers or they’ve retired.”

A second BuildMO Week conference was held Tuesday at North County Technical School in Florissant, near St. Louis.

AGC of Missouri says it represents more than 500 commercial, industrial, heavy and highway contractors, industry partners and related firms in 110 counties in the state.