By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
Despite what would appear to be a short construction season, Wyoming in 2020 had the highest percentage of workers employed in construction in the nation, according to a state report.
And a spokeswoman for the state’s contractors said there are still plenty of jobs in construction available.
“Obviously, we still have a deficit in the number of construction workers,” said Katie Legerski, executive director for the Associated General Contractors of Wyoming. “That’s our No. 1 problem is trying to find a trained workforce for our members.”
The state Economic Analysis Division, in its annual report “Just the Facts,” said that in 2020, about 23,150 of Wyoming’s workers were working in construction, about 7.8% of the state’s civilian workforce. The percentage was the highest in the country. Wyoming was followed by Utah at 7.5%.
Although Wyoming appears to have a short construction season, workers in different kinds of construction can actually work most of the year, Legerski said, and represent many of the people employed in construction.
“When we talk about the season, we are talking about a short season for heavy highway construction, from eight to nine months, depending on the weather,” she said. “But when you look at the vertical side, or residential side, they can work year-round depending on the weather or type of construction.”
She noted that many construction jobs are tackled indoors, such as the installation of heating and cooling systems, plumbing, painting, roofers and those laying carpet.
“It’s construction across the board,” Legerski said. “It’s not just the heavy highway construction.”
Wyoming contractors could employ another 1,000 to 2,000 workers, said Dan Bedford, who is in charge of workforce development for AGC.
Bedford said the extra demand for workers stems from new money being made available through federal programs such as the American Rescue Plan Act for various construction projects.
“A lot of our companies are ramping up this summer and trying to take on more than they would normally because of the funds that are available,” he said.
Legerski said a University of Wyoming study projected a need for a little less than 8,000 new construction workers within the next six years.
She added Bedford was hired as the organization’s workforce development coordinator because of the high demand for workers.
“His main job is not only to work with our members, but to encourage our youth to take another look at the trades,” she said.