According to data released Friday by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national construction industry added 42,000 net new jobs in February.
- The construction industry added 464,000 net new jobs in May 2020. On a year-over-year basis, industry employment has expanded by 223,000 jobs, an increase of 3.0%.
- May represented the largest monthly increase in construction jobs since the government began tracking employment in 1939, a drastic improvement from April, which recorded the industry’s largest month-over-month job loss.
- “For contractors, this is purely good news. With the economy beginning its recovery sooner and more dramatically than anticipated, fewer projects are likely to be postponed or canceled. Combined with rising contractor confidence, as indicated by ABC’s Construction Confidence Index, this will also help accelerate the recovery of state and local government finances as tax collections surge, ultimately resulting in more monies available to finance infrastructure. That said, state and local government finances remain in tough shape, with many local government workers losing jobs in May."
Press Release from Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc (ABC)
WASHINGTON, June 5—The construction industry added 464,000 net new jobs in May, according to an Associated Builders and Contractors analysis of data released today by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. May represented the largest monthly increase in construction jobs since the government began tracking employment in 1939, a drastic improvement from April, which recorded the industry’s largest month-over-month job loss.
While nonresidential construction employment lost more than 570,000 jobs on net in April, a total of 237,000 net new jobs were added in May with job gains in all three nonresidential subsegments. May 2020 nonresidential employment was 286,000 jobs lower compared to May 2019.
The construction unemployment rate fell to 12.7% in May, up 9.5 percentage points from the same time last year, but down 3.9 percentage points from April 2020. Unemployment across all industries fell to 13.3% in May, down from 14.7% in April.
“One way to look at this stunning jobs report is to suggest that economists missed the mark by approximately 10.5 million jobs,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “Economists polled by Dow Jones had forecasted a decline exceeding 8 million jobs. Instead, the economy added a bit more than 2.5 million jobs. It’s also possible that economists missed the mark by two to four weeks, as the economy opened up faster than most economists expected and consumers have been far more willing to engage the economy than many thought possible given the ongoing personal and public health risks presented by COVID-19."
“For contractors, this is purely good news,” said Basu. “With the economy beginning its recovery sooner and more dramatically than anticipated, fewer projects are likely to be postponed or canceled. Combined with rising contractor confidence, as indicated by ABC’s Construction Confidence Index, this will also help accelerate the recovery of state and local government finances as tax collections surge, ultimately resulting in more monies available to finance infrastructure. That said, state and local government finances remain in tough shape, with many local government workers losing jobs in May."
“Make no mistake—these remain treacherous times,” said Basu. “Though economic recovery may have begun, there is still the possibility of a resurgence in infections as stores, restaurants and other businesses reopen. Moreover, while unemployment dipped to 13.3% in May, it remains elevated. Labor force participation has been rocked in recent months, and it may be the case that many dislocated workers, including construction workers, will remain out of the labor force for an indefinite period. There is also a presidential election later this year, which will create further uncertainty for economic decision makers, including among those who purchase construction services.”
Press Release from Associated General Contractors of America (AGC)
Gains in May Reflect Temporary Support from Paycheck Protection Program Loans and Easing of Construction Restrictions, But Hobbled Economy and Tight State and Local Budgets Risk Future Job Losses
Construction employment rebounded by 464,000 jobs in May, but the total remained 596,000 below the latest peak in February and the industry’s 12.7 percent unemployment rate was the highest for May since 2012, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America of government data released today. Association officials cautioned that the future job losses are likely as temporary federal support programs end, state and local officials deal with tighter budgets and private sector demand declines later this year.
“The huge pickup in construction employment in May is good news and probably reflects the industry’s widespread receipt of Paycheck Protection Program loans and the loosening of restrictions on business activity in some states,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Nevertheless, the industry remains far short of full employment, and more layoffs may be imminent.
Simonson noted that the association’s latest survey found that nearly one-fourth of contractors reported a project that was scheduled to start in June or later had been canceled. He added that with most states and localities starting a new fiscal year on July 1, even more public construction is likely to be canceled unless the federal government makes up for some of their lost revenue and unbudgeted expenses.
The gain of 464,000 jobs in May followed losses of 995,000 in April and 65,000 in March, for a cumulative loss over three months of 596,000. Construction employment totaled 7,043,000 in May, about where it stood in late 2017, the economist noted.
The industry’s unemployment rate in May was 12.7 percent, with 1,187,000 former construction workers idled. These figures were roughly four times as high as in May 2019 and were the highest May levels since 2012 and 2011, respectively.
Association officials said the best way to avoid the expected future construction job losses is for federal officials to boost funding for infrastructure, including highway, bridges, waterways and airports. They noted that the additional funding would help cover expected state and local budget shortfalls and would help replace expected declines in private-sector demand.
“Government officials have done a good job providing temporary relief for firms struggling to cope with the economic impacts of the pandemic,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “As those temporary supports end, the broader economic realities of the lock-downs will cost countless construction jobs unless Congress and the Administration can work together to enact measures to revive the economy.”