The Omaha area stands out as the nation's fastest-growing market for construction jobs, according to a new analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America that tracked 358 metro areas.

About 5,900 new construction jobs came on board locally between October 2018 and October 2019 — that's a 20% increase, the largest percentage gain among the metro areas reviewed, said Brian Turmail, national spokesman for the contractors group.

Today there are 35,500 workers in Omaha's construction market, the contractors group reported, up from a post-recession low of 21,000 in October 2011. 

A related survey also discussed Friday found that 90 percent of Nebraska contractors, compared with 80 percent of contractors nationwide, reported a hard time finding qualified workers.

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Many construction workers are retiring, Turmail said, and too few young adults are entering the field.

He and others, including members of the group's Nebraska chapter, visited the Metropolitan Community College Fort Omaha campus Friday to highlight ways to turn around the shortage. The community college opened its Construction Education Center about two years ago.

"We see the demand every day," said Nate Barry, Metro's dean of career and technical education. He said Omaha's top rank among fast-growing construction job cities reinforces the college's commitment to prepare the region's workforce for the high-demand career.

The national contractors group outlined other steps federal officials should take to build momentum. The plan includes a push to help construction students qualify for federal Pell Grants and for a doubling of federal funding for technical education programs over the next five years.

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