Construction Adds 19,000 Jobs in July

According to data released Friday by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national construction industry added 19,000 net new jobs in July, following 13,000 in June and 29,000 in May.

Press Release from Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc (ABC)

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Construction Adds 19,000 Jobs as Unemployment Plummets in July, Says ABC

WASHINGTON, Aug. 3—The U.S. construction industry added 19,000 net new jobs in July after adding 13,000 net new jobs in June, according to an Associated Builders and Contractors analysis of data supplied by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The industry has added 308,000 net new jobs since the first of the year, a robust increase of 4.4 percent.

The construction industry unemployment rate dove to 3.4 percent in July, recording its lowest level in the 18-year history of the series. The national unemployment rate for all industries inched down to 3.9 percent.

Nonresidential construction employment increased by 13,200 net jobs in July. Nonresidential specialty trade contractors added 8,600 net new jobs in July and have collectively added 60,300 net new jobs through the first seven months of the year. To put this in perspective, this is nearly double the amount added through the first seven months of 2017 (+32,200).

“While many observers will focus intensely on the headline employment growth number of 157,000, which was below expectations, today’s employment numbers provide more evidence that demand for workers remains elevated,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “Employment growth estimates for both May and June were revised higher. The official rate of unemployment fell to 3.9 percent. Nominal wage growth remains steady. Both construction and manufacturing continue to add jobs in America.

“The issue, therefore, is not really about demand for human capital, but supply,” said Basu. “There may well have been times during the nation’s history when construction industry unemployment was even lower, but relevant statistics characterizing those periods do not exist. What we know for sure is that contractors will continue to scramble for workers in the context of aggressive spending on structures and other forms of construction.

“The real mystery is how the construction industry has managed to find 308,000 net new workers over the past year given all the narratives regarding a lack of available carpenters, electricians, welders, glass installers, etc.,” said Basu. “One hope is that more workers are gravitating toward construction, which offers increasingly rare opportunities for people to enter the middle class without taking on student debt. The other hope—and there is evidence to suggest this is already occurring— is that companies will invest heavily in the capabilities of these people inducing more of them to stay in the industry even during the next downturn.”

Press Release from Associated General Contractors of America (AGC)

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Construction Employment Reaches 10-Year High as Industry Adds 19,000 Jobs in July and 303,000 for the Year; Industry Unemployment Sets Record Low

Construction Officials Say Firms Would Likely Have Added More Workers if they Could Find Them, Urge Education Officials to Do More to Encourage Students to Consider High-Paying Construction Careers

Construction employment increased by 19,000 jobs in July and by 303,000 jobs over the past year, reaching a 10-year high, while the industry’s unemployment rate and level hit an all-time low, according to an analysis of new government data by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials said it was likely firms would have added even more workers if they could find qualified candidates to hire.

“The construction industry has added workers at nearly three times the rate of the economy as a whole, and the job gains are showing up in both residential and non-residential construction,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “But it is getting ever harder for contractors to find workers despite offering above-average pay and good career advancement opportunities.”

Construction employment totaled 7,242,000 in July, the highest level since May 2008 and a gain of 4.4 percent over the past 12 months. The economist pointed out that the year-over-year growth rate in industry jobs was almost triple the 1.6 percent rise in total nonfarm payroll employment.

Hourly earnings in the industry averaged $29.86 in July, an increase of 3.2 percent from a year earlier. That put average hourly earnings in construction 10.4 percent higher than the average for all nonfarm private-sector jobs, which rose 2.7 percent in the past year, to $27.05, Simonson added.

The unemployment for workers with construction experience in July was 3.4 percent, more than a percentage point lower than July 2017 (4.9 percent) and July 2016 (4.5 percent), and a record low since the series started in 2000—a sign that the industry is operating at essentially full employment, Simonson said.

Employment in residential construction – comprising residential building and specialty trade contractors—grew by 6,200 jobs in July and added 139,300 jobs over the past 12 months, a 5.2 percent increase. Employment in nonresidential construction—including building, specialty trades, and heavy and civil engineering construction—grew by 13,200 jobs in July and increased by 168,400 during the past year, a 4.0 percent increase.

Association officials cautioned that shortages of qualified workers are likely preventing many firms from hiring ever more people. They said a recently enacted federal career and technical education measure will help provide education officials with new funding and flexibility to create construction-focused programs. But they said too many people are hesitant to enter careers in construction despite the high pay and career advancement opportunities available.

“Making it easier to set up construction-focused school programs will help expose more students to construction as a possible career path,” Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer, said. “Education officials can also do more to explain to students that construction pays better than most jobs, typically doesn’t require an expensive four-year degree and offers significant opportunities for advancement.”