Despite fears of automation taking over American jobs, the number of construction jobs has increased over the past year. According to a recent analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), 38 states and the District of Columbia have created thousands of construction jobs between April 2017 and April 2018.
“Firms in many parts of the country are working to keep pace with growing demand for construction services,” said Ken Simonson, the Chief Economist of AGC.
The most construction jobs (7.4%) were created in California over the last year. The 59,500 new jobs were most likely created in light of the state’s housing shortage and the new mandate for solar panels.
Other states that dramatically increased construction jobs include Texas (40,600 jobs), Florida (34,900 jobs), and Georgia (13,900 jobs).
More construction jobs would have been filled, the AGC says, if the industry had been able to find workers with the right qualifications. “Many of those firms are having a hard time finding and hiring enough qualified workers as the pool of available workers remains very tight,” Simonson said.
Despite $14 to $35 billion in manufacturer co-op marketing funds going unclaimed every year, the manufacturing industry has long been an advocate of automation to boost productivity levels.
But labor-first industries like agriculture and construction often find themselves in the crosshairs of automation. Zak Podkaminer, the operations manager at Construction Robotics, says that construction has always been an industry known for lagging behind.
Yet the construction industry hasn’t shed millions of jobs to welcome automation as other industries have in the past. In fact, compared to the 142,000 people employed by the U.S. steel industry, the construction industry has 2.7 million more employees than it had 30 years ago.
In the same time window, the manufacturing industry has let go over 6.3 million workers.
Still, the growing numbers of employment in the construction industry doesn’t mean the industry isn’t on its way toward automation. A study by CB Insights suggested that 1.2 million jobs could be at risk in the next 10 years due to automation.
Yet, the automation revolution may not have a disastrous effect on the construction industry. CB Insights also said that the construction industry is a low-risk industry for worker displacement.
“Because we’re still at the early stages of what I think will ultimately be a very substantive thing, the labor market impact so far is probably not going to show up as that great,” said Lee Branstetter.
Branstetter is an economics and public policy professor at Carnegie Mellon University and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He researches industries who have filed artificial intelligence patents to prepare American workers for potential disruptions.
In the next five to 10 years, CB Insights predicts that 10 million jobs are at high risk for being replaced with automation.
“I think we have an opportunity to do with this very important and probably disruptive technology what we should have done in the past,” Branstetter said. “Which is look ahead, figure out the occupational categories and industries likely to be disrupted before disruptions really happens.”