With the recession over, Minnesota construction companies are scrambling to fill open jobs.
The state’s construction industry shed tens of thousands of jobs during the housing crash, but it’s booming again. According to state employment data, construction is by far the fastest-growing industry in the state, notwithstanding some losses last month.
In recent months, Minnesota Public Radio reported, construction managers have found it much harder to find people with experience, like lead carpenters. After years of little or no work, many of the most seasoned workers gave up and moved on.
One problem in luring them back is that wages came down during the slump and often haven’t recovered.
“We were able to get better people for a little cheaper,” said Aaron Johnson, one of the owners of Castle Building and Remodeling in Minneapolis.
At Castle, a non-union company, lead carpenters made about $27 per hour before the downturn. That plunged to around $23 per hour in the recession’s depths. On an annual basis that could mean about $8,000 in lost income. Lead carpenters’ pay has regained only about half the lost ground.
Steve Hine, chief labor market analyst with the Department of Employment and Economic Development, said employers may need to boost pay and scale back experience requirements. He said they may also have to drop a common requirement that workers supply their own vehicle.
That requirement has made it hard for Carquita Hall, 25, of Richfield, to find work. She earned a carpentry certification last year.
“I was top in my class, top 10,” she said. “The only reason I wasn’t work-ready was I didn’t have a reliable vehicle.”
Hall traveled nearly two hours by bus to attend a recent jobs fair in St. Paul, hoping to make personal connections to improve her chances. She got a few leads and was confident of landing a job soon.