But contractors say the Sarasota-Bradenton metro area needs bigger labor force.
Construction employment continued to grow at the end of 2019 in Southwest Florida, but payrolls still trail their peak levels.
Contractors in Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties hired 1,900 additional workers during the 12-month period ended in December, according to a new report from the Associated General Contractors of America.
The Sarasota-Manatee metro area generated 1,600 of those jobs, a 6% growth rate that tied for 57th among the 358 U.S. metro areas measured.
Charlotte County’s 300 new construction jobs ranked 40th, with a 7% annual gain, AGC said.
A total of 32,600 workers were counted in the construction trades in the region. But those workers remain in demand.
A labor shortage has dogged the construction sector in Southwest Florida for several years, slowing home building and large-scale commercial projects by months. Some of the subcontractors who perform most of the labor at construction sites – such as carpenters, plumbers and drywall installers – say they cannot find the staff to handle the surge of home, condominium, apartment, hotel and retail projects underway or planned.
Florida’s 2.4% unemployment rate in the construction sector is the lowest on record, according to the Florida Gulf Coast Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors.
“Talent is at a premium. Every niche of our industry is busy and could use more workers,” said Steve Cona III, president of the Tampa-based chapter. “When talent is scarce, it drives up demand. You do see wages continue to increase during times when it’s hard to find people.”
The Sarasota-Manatee area reported 27,800 workers in the construction trades at year end. But that remained off from the December peak of 31,400 jobs reported during the building boom in 2005.
Construction employment grew in 211, or 59%, of the 358 metro areas over the year. It declined in 73 metros and was unchanged in 74.
“There are not enough qualified workers in many parts of the country for firms to be able to keep pace with strong demand for work,” said Ken Simonson, AGC’s chief economist. “Construction workforce shortages appear to be holding back further job gains in many parts of the country.”
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