Slowdown forcing some construction workers to change careers
The numbers tell the story: On a given day, 1,800 job applicants chase 12 to 18 job openings — a ratio of 109 applicants for each job.
That leaves people considering alternate careers, many as they approach the final decade of their working lives.
Such is the scenario for construction workers in the Grand Valley. The Mesa County Workforce Center in Grand Junction estimates that nearly one in five local construction workers is looking for full-time unemployment.
And the scenario in Mesa County is actually better than in some other areas, such as Phoenix and Las Vegas. In fact, while some unemployed local workers consider leaving Mesa County to look for work, they might want to know that others consider Mesa County a place of comparative opportunity.
“It appears the number of construction workers leaving the valley is about equal to the number of construction workers moving into the area during the past 12 months,” said David Porfirio, manager of business services at the workforce center, in an e-mail to the Grand Valley Business Times.
Construction workers leaving the Grand Valley might be wise to consider such nearby states as Kansas and Oklahoma. Those were two of only six states that added construction jobs from July of 2009 through July 2010, according to the Associated General Contractors of America.
Kansas topped the list with a 6.9 percent increase in construction employment with 4,000 net new jobs. New Hampshire was second at 5 percent and 1,100 jobs, followed by Oklahoma at 2.8 percent and 1,900 jobs.
Meanwhile, Wyoming saw a 5.4 percent increase with a gain of 1,100 net new jobs from June to July this year, ranking second behind Vermont at 5.5 percent with the highest monthly proportional gain.
Construction workers migrating to the Grand Valley likely include transplants from Nevada, which lost 17,300 construction jobs in the 12-month period that ended July 31.
Or they could be coming from other parts of Colorado. The Centennial state lost 13.7 percent, or 17,400, of its construction jobs in the same 12-month period.
Only three states had a larger percentage loss in that time period. Illinois and Idaho joined Nevada in the top three.
Instead of looking elsewhere for work, some local unemployed construction workers are pursing another path toward employment — getting out of the industry altogether.
“Many of them who work with us are trying to broaden their transferable skills and are applying for maintenance, HVACs, landscaping, truck driving,” Porfirio said.
Truck drivers are in comparatively high demand. Porfirio noted in May that transportation was the most improved sector for local job opportunity over the previous 12 months. People who have commercial driver’s licenses stand the best shot at landing a job.
And if the construction sector remains slow for much longer, there could be many more construction workers seeking new careers.
“We do not know how many workers may have transferred into or out of the home building sector,” Porfirio said. “We just know that home building has been decreasing over the last 12 months.”