One of the factors driving construction costs soaring is barely easing: Employment in the industry is rising as the sector begins to rise out of a COVID-19 trough, according to a new analysis by Marcum Construction Group.

Marcum JOLTS analysis of construction employment trends for 2020 shows that job vacancies in the industry fell to 195,000 in December, which is roughly 2.6% of all construction positions available. The report, which draws on construction data from the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics survey of job vacancies and sales, also finds that at the start of the pandemic, many experts were hoping that the job losses in March and April would fuel the skills shortage in the Industry would decrease years.

“It just hasn’t happened to any significant extent,” wrote Anirban Basu, author of the report and Marcum’s chief building economist. “In December 2020, there were 13,000 more workers quitting their construction jobs than were laid off or laid off by their employers. This was only the 17th month in the last 20 years in which layoffs exceeded layoffs and layoffs – a clear indication of the bottlenecks in the labor market. “

The bottlenecks are particularly acute in certain parts of the country, which in turn has driven wages higher. The average hourly wage for construction workers peaked at $ 32.11 in January 2021, while the average weekly hours also rose to the highest level since the third quarter of 2019.

“This is to be expected from a strong economy that operates under normal circumstances and is not affected by an ongoing pandemic and increased unemployment,” Basu said. And in the past, workers who lost their jobs during a recession did not return to the industry: According to statistics from the Census Bureau cited in the report, more than 60% of construction workers who lost their jobs during the 2008-09 downturn left the industry, the industry good until 2013.

At the same time, activity is shrinking for various reasons. Total housing starts declined 10% in 2020 to $ 766.3 billionAccording to Dodge Data & Analytics, construction spending ended a nearly ten-year expansion last spring. Experts predict that non-residential construction, which posted a 24% loss and hit its lowest level since 2015, will remain in recession well into 2021. The office, hotel and warehouse sectors also saw double-digit declines in December, with total commercial launches falling 23% over the month. In addition, the latest Consensus Construction Forecast by the American Institute of Architects estimates that spending on non-residential buildings will decrease by around 5% this year.