Slowdown forcing some construction workers to change careers

While some workers build an apartment complex at the Corner Square development in Grand Junction, others look for jobs. According to the Mesa County Workforce Center in Grand Junction, one in five construction workers is looking for full-time employment. (Business Times photo by Mike Moran)

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.”

Mike Moran
Business Times

One Response to "Slowdown forcing some construction workers to change careers"

  1. brian   January 21, 2014 at 10:12 am

    Howdy, So I started my plumbing career 30 yrs ago when they hired apprentice for 6 bucks an hr. that’s with experience right out of the service. The sad thing about that is they hired high school kids at 18 bucks an hour with good grades cause they were short on intelligent labor during the tech boom. So they had false hope of high paying careers with longevity. My career fallowed the economy just as close or better than stock market! I stayed in Colorado the whole time. Fest or famine was the case! This is the worst famine all together. Once all the new money from the tech boom was used to build resorts and industry we were done! The oil shale has never progressed as was thought. Service is the only sector to go but now with so many “handyman” co. they cut each others bids to get no profit. There is so much infrastructure to rebuild in America there should never be a man with two strong hands without a job! I am at the tail end of the baby boom with so many choices retraining is my only option. Thank you VA for my education for the next 4 yrs.