The 2017 malaise of construction job growth in Idaho’s largest cities lingered into October.
Selected metropolitan areas in Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado and Wyoming all saw higher job growth rates than Coeur d’Alene, Idaho’s highest ranked metro. Coeur d’Alene came in at No. 53 out of 358 U.S. metro areas with 8 percent construction job growth, according to the Associated General Contractors of America.
Boise and Idaho Falls lagged far behind, both at No. 140 with 3 percent job growth over the prior October. Lewiston was flat at No. 244 and Pocatello dropped 5 percent of its construction jobs to rank No. 344. The rankings were similar in September.
Among the nation’s double digit percentage gainers with construction jobs were neighboring counties covering Cheyenne, Wyo., and Greeley, Colo., several California central valley and desert metros, Wenatchee, Wash., Bend, Ore., and Las Vegas, Portland and Memphis.
Boise was No. 1 and 2 several times in 2016 and Lewiston was No. 1 and 2 in recent months.
“About six months ago it stopped,” said Wayne Hammon, executive director of Idaho AGC, an affiliate of AGC of America. “Six months ago, the number of jobs left unfilled eclipsed the number of jobs filled. Now it’s 2-to-1 with jobs unfilled.”
Hammon said that Boise’s low ranking of No. 140 is caused by a shortage of qualified workers. If those workers were available, there are jobs for them, Hammon said, and Idaho and Boise would be ranked near the top.
Nationwide, construction companies struggle with the lack of qualified workers, AGC has noted. But many secondary metros have surpassed the Idaho metros in construction job growth.
“Some of the places have a more robust community college system (training construction workers),” Hammon said. “We’re working on that. We’ve hit the limit of readily available workers. We have to bring new people into the system.”
Idaho AGC is collaborating with the Idaho Workforce Development Council on proposed legislation that would allow workforce development funds to pay for recurring one-month introduction to construction courses. At the end of the course, the graduate meets with a hiring contractor to land a two-year paid apprenticeship at a construction company, Hammon said.
He wants to offer these courses at Idaho’s four community colleges and Lewis-Clark State College and Idaho State University by next fall.
These introductory course could serve as a gateway to construction jobs for up to 150 people at the outset, Hammon estimates.