Construction Adds 38,000 Jobs in December

According to data released last week by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national construction industry added 38,000 net new jobs in December. During the past 12 months, the industry has added 280,000 net new construction jobs, which translates into a 4 percent increase in total industry-wide employment.

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

Construction Employment Rises to Close Out 2018, Says ABC

WASHINGTON, Jan. 4—According to an Associated Builders and Contractors analysis of data released by today the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, construction employment expanded by 38,000 net new jobs in December. Across the industry, employment is up by 280,000 year-over-year, an increase of 4.0 percent.

Nonresidential employment grew by 35,800 net new positions over the previous month, which means that the vast majority of construction job growth emerged from nonresidential categories. Nonresidential gains were split evenly between heavy and civil engineering (+16,300) and nonresidential specialty trade contractors (+16,100).

Construction industry unemployment rose to 5.1 percent due to a meaningful increase in labor force participation, yet remains 0.8 percent lower than at the same time one year ago. And while unemployment rose to 3.9 percent nationally, wage growth continues to accelerate.

“For several reasons, such as market volatility, a sense of deep concern has set in recently among many economic stakeholders,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “There has also been some evidence of economic slowing, including in America’s manufacturing sector. But today’s employment release reminds us that the U.S. economy continues to expand and that many businesses, including construction firms, remain in growth mode.

“What’s more, a stronger labor market continues to translate into solid wage gains for households, said Basu. “That will help keep the consumer portion of the economy strong, even as slower global economic growth creates more challenges for certain types of businesses. While overall U.S. economic growth is likely to slow in 2019, the economy appears poised to generate enough growth to keep the average contractor busy and to keep backlog relatively stable.

“Importantly, job growth was apparent in both publicly and privately financed nonresidential categories,” said Basu. “Construction spending has been strong in categories ranging from office and lodging to transportation and public safety, and today’s data suggest that firms operating in these and other segments will continue to bulk up on staffing. In the final analysis, today’s employment numbers were impressive and should suppress most discussion regarding the imminence of a broad economic downturn.”


Press Release from Associated General Contractors of America (AGC)

Full release

Construction Employment Rises by 38,000 in December and 280,000 in 2018; Hourly Pay Jumps 3.9%, Unemployment Rate at 5.19%

Industry’s Job and Pay Gains Outpace Overall Economy; Association Survey Finds Contractors Plan To Add Workers, Invest in Training and Technology in 2019 but Expect Difficulty in Filling Positions

Construction employment increased by 38,000 jobs in December and by 280,000 jobs, or 4.0 percent, over the past year, while the industry’s average pay accelerated and unemployment decreased to a historic low, according to an analysis of new government data by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials added that most contractors report they plan to continue hiring in 2019, according to the association’s annual outlook that was released earlier this week.

“Demand for construction remains strong across most project types and locations,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Job growth and pay increases in construction are outpacing those in the overall economy. But contractors continue to have difficulty finding qualified workers with the number of unemployed workers who have construction experience at the lowest December level in 19 years.”

Construction employment totaled 7,352,000 in December, the highest level since March 2008. Employment in residential construction—comprising residential building and specialty trade contractors—inched up by 1,700 jobs for the month and 99,800 jobs over the past 12 months, a 3.6 percent increase. Employment in nonresidential construction—including building, specialty trades, and heavy and civil engineering construction—grew by 35,800 jobs in December and grew by 180,100 jobs during the past year, a 4.2 percent increase, the economist remarked.

Hourly earnings in the industry averaged $30.44 in December, a rise of 3.9 percent from a year earlier, Simonson noted. Average hourly earnings in construction are now 10.8 percent higher than the average for all nonfarm private-sector jobs, which rose 3.2 percent in the past year, to $27.48.

The unemployment rate for jobseekers with construction experience in December was 5.1 percent, down more from 5.9 percent in December 2017. The number of such workers fell to 493,000 from 554,000 a year earlier. Both figures were the lowest for December since the series began in 2000.

In a survey the association released on Wednesday, 79 percent of construction firms reported that they expect to add employees in 2019. However, nearly as many—78 percent—reported they were having trouble filling some positions and 68 percent said they expected that hiring would remain difficult or become harder. Association officials cautioned, however, that contractors’ expansion plans could be undermined if Washington officials fail to make new investments in infrastructure or resolve trade disputes, particularly with China.

“Contractors are raising pay and benefits and are investing in training and technology in order to keep pace with demand,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “But they are also counting on Washington officials to work together to improve aging and over-burdened infrastructure and resolve trade concerns to ensure the economy continues to expand.”

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