Construction employment sees moderate growth in April

Article written by Mary Tyler March, ConstructionDive, May 5, 2017

Brief:

  • Construction employment saw more tepid growth for the second-straight month, with an increase of 5,000 net new jobs in April, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.
  • The month's total construction employment of 6.877 million represented a 173,000-position — or 2.6% — increase from April 2016.
  • Within the industry, the residential sector added 900 positions last month, while nonresidential (including the heavy civil and engineering sectors) added 3,200 net new jobs to the month's figures, according to the Associated Builders and Contractors

Insight:

Construction employment's sluggish growth for the second-straight month stems, in part, from the industry's struggle to pull in skilled workers, according to Associated Builders and Contractors Chief Economist Anirban Basu. Basu attributed a drop-off in nonresidential specialty trade contractors, in particular, to a slowdown in private development, including major commercial segments.

After industry employment notched the strongest recorded level since in nearly a decade in February, the slowdown in job growth comes as a disappointment to analysts who had hoped for steady growth in the sector. The first two months of 2017 saw the creation of nearly 100,000 combined new jobs, averaging 47,000 net new jobs between January and February. Still, employment growth will likely stay moderate in the coming months, Basu said in a release — though it could stand to see a spike if the Trump administration moves forward with its proposed infrastructure agendas.

A strong showing from March's Architecture Billings Index could spell future optimism for the industry's employment figures. And despite a drop-off in housing starts for the month, a 3.6% hike in building permit authorizations points to increased activity in the single-family residential segment in the coming months.

To prepare for the potential pick-up in projects, contractors have expressed interest in growing their staffs. Almost three-fourths of the 1,281 contractors surveyed in January by the Association of General Contractors indicated a desire to expand their workforce in 2017, though an equal portion reported difficulties finding workers qualified for both wage-driven and salaried positions.

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