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Help wanted in Minnesota: Construction jobs

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The fastest growing industry in the state is having trouble keeping pace with job openings.

MPR News reports that construction firms in Minnesota can't fill positions fast enough to keep up with the demand. Tens of thousands of workers in the construction industry who lost their employment during the recession are now in high demand. The story said after years of being idle due to the housing crash and the downturn during the recession, thousands of skilled workers "gave up and moved on."

The demand for those workers should continue to expand. There have been numerous reports of the demand for new housing returning to the suburbs and exurbs of the metro area. Public works construction projects will create even more jobs. Forum Communications detailed the biggest projects included in the $1.1 billion bonding bill that was just passed at the legislature. For example, the St Cloud Times notes that state funding for phase two of an expansion at the city's River's Edge Convention Center will be a regional jobs catalyst.

Minnesota is not unique with the shortfall. Money News reported that the construction sector added 32,000 jobs in April. The story had some historic perspective, adding that in April 2006, there were over 7.7 million construction jobs in the nation, but by April 2011, the number was under 5.4 million. Now it is back up to 6 million.

Reuters reported that U.S. housing starts jumped in April as building permits hit their highest level in nearly six years. Last week, the Commerce Department said groundbreakings increased 13.2 percent, the highest level since November 2013. Compared to April last year, groundbreakings were up 26.4 percent. Starts for single-family homes, the largest segment of the market, rose 0.8 percent while starts for the multi-family homes segment surged 39.6 percent.

In Minnesota, construction wages that fell during the recession are bouncing back. The NPR story used the non-union Castle Building and Remodeling as an example. Before the recession, lead carpenters working for the company made about $27 per hour. That rate dropped to around $23 in the recession's depths. On an annual basis that could mean about $8,000 in lost income. But recently, lead carpenters' pay has regained roughly half the lost ground.

The unemployment rate in Minnesota in April stood at 4.7 percent. The number has been in steady decline and remains lower than the national unemployment rate.

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