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Local Construction Firms Recruiting and Training Military Veterans to Help Fill Those New Positions, But Industry Officials Warn Political Fighting Could Undermine Future Employment Gains
Construction employment in the Madison metro area hit a four-year high in February allowing local employers to recruit and train military veterans to help fill those new positions, according to an analysis released by the Associated General Contractors of America today. However, local construction jobs in the area are at risk if Washington continues to make indiscriminate cuts to federal construction programs, association officials warned.
“It has been too long since we have seen a lot of folks working in hard hats,” said Mark Rudnicki, president of the Associated General Contractors of Wisconsin and CEO of Madison-based Stevens Construction Corporation. “As construction firms begin to rebuild their payrolls in many parts of the country, our industry is taking steps to make sure many of those new jobs go to military veterans, whose personal sacrifices have earned them a place in the civilian workforce.”
Rudnicki said that the Madison metro area added 800 construction jobs between February 2011 and February 2013, an 8 percent increase. He added that construction employment has rebounded more strongly in Madison than in the nation as a whole, which has added less than 6 percent to construction payrolls in the past two years. There are now 10,600 people working in construction in the Madison metro area today, up from 9,800 two years ago.
The recent increases in construction employment in Madison represent a significant change from a years-long construction downturn that has eliminated one-third of the construction jobs that existed in the area in 2006. Rudnicki noted that Madison lost 5,100 construction jobs since February 2006. He added that 27 percent of the 130,000 construction jobs that existed throughout Wisconsin in April 2006 have disappeared.
The local association official said that Madison was not alone. Nationwide, 158 out of 339 metro areas added new construction jobs between February 2012 and February 2013, including Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, Green Bay, La Crosse and Wausau metro areas. But he cautioned that 132 metro areas lost construction jobs during the same time period while employment levels were stagnant in another 49 areas.
Rudnicki said that many firms across the country were eager to recruit and train veterans. He noted that the firms not only feel a patriotic obligation to employ former service members, but that they also appreciate the incredible pool of talent and experience veterans bring to job sites. He added that a number of firms in Wisconsin, including local contractors H&H Industries, are working to train veterans.
The association president cautioned, however, that the industry’s recovery remained fragile, adding that Appleton, Oshkosh and Racine were among the metro areas in the country where construction employment continues to decline. He said that a 17 percent decline in public sector investments in infrastructure and construction during the past four years were threatening to undermine recent increases in private sector construction activity.
“We need to find ways to address out-of-control entitlement spending that is choking off needed investments in infrastructure and a host of federal building programs,” Rudnicki noted. “It is hard to understand the wisdom of the more than $4 billion in federal construction cuts that are taking place right now as a result of the federal sequester, especially when so many veterans and construction workers are unemployed.”
View the new construction employment figures by state (http://www.agc.org/galleries/news/Metro_Empl_1302_Alpha.pdf) or by rank (http://www.agc.org/galleries/news/Metro_Empl_1302_Rank.pdf).