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NM construction sector shows uptick in jobs

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Albuquerque metro area gained 400 construction jobs in December compared to a year earlier, ending 2014 with a 2 percent gain to 19,500 workers in the beleaguered job sector, according to an analysis of federal data by the Associated General Contractors of America.

Albuquerque’s 2 percent gain ranked 227 out of 339 cities covered in the analysis and followed a trend across the country of improved hiring in construction. Only 43 cities posted job losses year over year in December, including Las Cruces with a 6 percent decrease in construction employment.

Statewide, the construction sector grew year over year by 800 jobs, or 2 percent to a total employment of 42,600.

“The industry should continue to add jobs in 2015 as private and public sector demand continues to grow,” Ken Simonson, AGC’s chief economist, said in a prepared statement.

The association’s recently released construction outlook for 2015, which includes survey responses from New Mexico contractors, showed 60 percent of contractors nationwide expect construction activity to grow this year. Almost three of every four contractors expects to add employees.

Contractors expect the construction growth to be driven by the private sector, with retail, warehouse and lodging property leading the way, according to the survey. Optimism dropped off from a year earlier for construction prospects in manufacturing, private offices, hospitals and power projects.

The outlook for public sector construction is buoyed by optimism for water and sewer construction, but is generally subdued for any construction segments that depend on federal funding.

The growing labor shortage in the construction sector continues to be a concern, with 87 percent of surveyed contractors saying they’re having trouble filling key positions. The silver lining, at least from the workers’ standpoint, is that compensation levels appear to be rising.

“A quarter of firms report they have improved their benefits packages to retain construction professionals and one in five firms has done the same to retain craft workers,” the AGC’s construction outlook report says.