Call for US to end tariffs on materials

By Andy Brown04 April 2022

Construction employment and spending on construction projects increased again in the US, but association officials warn that growth may stall unless tariffs on key materials are lifted.

According to analysis of government data by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) construction employment climbed by 19,000 jobs between February and March, while spending on construction projects rose for the 12th month in a row in February.

However, the AGC called for the US government to end tariffs on key materials, as well as broaden training and education opportunities for construction careers. Association officials said the industry will need to obtain materials on a more timely basis and hire hundreds of thousands of additional workers in order to execute projects that will soon be funded by the US$1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure law, on top of the continuing demand for homebuilding and private nonresidential structures.

There are currently tariffs in place for lumber and steel, and other materials used in the industry.

“Contractors are doing their part to add employees and complete projects,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “But there won’t be enough materials or workers to go around if officials in Washington fail to allow more goods into the US and prepare more jobseekers for these opportunities.”

Industry employment totalled 7,628,000 in March, topping the pre-pandemic peak set in February 2020 for the first time. Residential building and specialty trade contractors added 7,600 employees in March, and the sector’s employment exceeded the February 2020 level by 161,000 or 5.4%.

“Construction is contributing significantly to the expansion of employment and the overall economy,” said Ken Simonson, AGC chief economist. “But the sector is facing growing challenges in terms of filling job openings, obtaining materials, and keeping up with soaring wages and prices.”

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