TOPEKA, Kan. — Commercial contractors in Kansas are struggling to fill construction jobs, a national trade association reported Wednesday.

The Associated General Contractors of America said that 83 percent of surveyed construction firms say they are facing difficulties filling in hourly craft positions, even though Kansas lost over 4,000 construction jobs from July 2015 to July 2016. The association notes that 69 percent of firms nationwide are experiencing similar difficulties.

Lawmakers have attributed the job losses to delayed highway projects, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal ( ).

Trade association CEO Stephen Sandherr says the most difficult positions to fill are carpenters, electricians, roofers, plumbers and concrete workers.

He says nearly half of firms nationwide have responded to worker shortages by raising base pay rates for craft workers, and 22 percent have improved employee benefits and added bonuses and incentives.

But Sandherr says shortages are not going to be alleviated any time soon, partially due to the increasing demand for construction work in many other parts of the country.

Jay Lucas, vice president of operations for McGown Gordon, said his company is trying to tackle the shortage by talking to sub-contractors and working with trade schools and high schools to find workers.

Lucas’s company has also reached out to veterans leaving the military in the Fort Riley area as well younger people. Lucas, whose company is remodeling the Hayden Office Building for Kansas Health Institute in Topeka, said young people have mistakenly been called lazy.

“They are not at all. They just need to see that there’s an avenue that provides a good compensation, good benefits and has a future, and construction is one of the best avenues to go into,” Lucas said.

Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal,