Construction Job Growth Strong With 33,000 Net New Jobs in April

According to data released last week by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national construction industry added 33,000 net new jobs in April.

Key Takeaways

  • On a year-over-year basis, industry employment is up 256,000 jobs, representing a 3.5% increase.
  • Nonresidential specialty trade contractors added 22,100 net new jobs compared to March and 114,300 net new jobs year over year.
  • The construction industry unemployment rate fell to 4.7%, down 2.2% from the same time last year, which represents the lowest April rate since the series began in the year 2000.
  • "Many economists are predicting a recession in 2020 or 2021. While that’s possible, the case for an economic downturn over the next 12 to 18 months is fading fast. The nation has added jobs in 103 consecutive months and the unemployment rate is at its lowest level since 1969."


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

Construction Job Growth Strong in April, Says ABC

WASHINGTON, May 3 – The construction industry added 33,000 net new jobs in April, according to an Associated Builders and Contractors analysis of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released today. Compared to the same time last year, industry employment is up by 256,000 jobs, an increase of 3.5 percent.

Nonresidential employment added 32,400 net new jobs last month, although the nonresidential building sub-segment added just 400 net new jobs. Nonresidential specialty trade contractors led the segment, adding 22,100 net new jobs compared to March and 114,300 net new jobs year over year.

Overall, the construction industry unemployment rate fell to 4.7 percent, down 2.2 percentage points from the same time last year, which represents the lowest April rate since the series began in the year 2000. The national unemployment rate for all industries fell to 3.6 percent in April.

"Many economists are predicting a recession in 2020 or 2021,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “While that’s possible, the case for an economic downturn over the next 12 to 18 months is fading fast. The nation has added jobs in 103 consecutive months and the unemployment rate is at its lowest level since 1969. With inflation and interest rates low, the cost of capital remains suppressed, helping to induce ongoing spending growth among companies, consumers and governments alike. Corporate earnings remain strong, and today's employment report indicates that many remain firmly in growth mode.

“For construction firms, today's jobs report is consistent with lengthy backlog, continued expansion in consumer outlays, growing demand for office and other forms of space and steady demand for construction services,” said Basu. “As contractors continue to struggle to identify and afford talent, average hourly earnings for construction employees increased by 0.4 percent from March to April, approximately twice the rate of growth observed across all industries. That said, construction wages have expanded at a slightly slower rate than all industries over the past year, increasing by 3.1 percent."


Press Release from Associated General Contractors of America (AGC)

Construction Jobs Increase by 33,000 in April and 256,000 Over 12 Months as Industry Unemployment Rate Falls to 4.7%, Lowest Ever for April

Average Hourly Earnings in Construction Top Private Sector Average by 10 Percent but Association Survey Shows Workers are Hard to Find; Officials Urge Expanding Career and Technical Education to Boost Supply

Construction employment increased by 33,000 jobs in April and by 256,000 or 3.5 percent, over the past 12 months, while the number of unemployed jobseekers with construction fell to a record low for April, according to an analysis of new government data by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials said the unavailability of experienced construction workers underscores the importance of including initiatives to expand opportunities for construction careers as part of infrastructure funding legislation.

“With overall unemployment now at the lowest level in nearly 50 years, contractors are having an ever harder time finding workers with or without construction experience,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Average pay in construction is more than 10 percent higher than in the private sector as a whole but job openings in the industry keep climbing.”

The unemployment rate for jobseekers who last worked in construction declined to 4.7 percent from 6.5 percent in April 2018, and the number of such workers decreased over the year from 623,000 to 439,000. Both the rate and number of unemployed were the lowest for April since the series began in 2000, Simonson said. He added that another government series showed that the number of job openings in construction, last reported for February, totaled 286,000, the highest February total in the 19-year history of that series.

Average hourly earnings in construction—a measure of all wages and salaries—increased 3.1 percent over the year to $30.60. That figure was 10.2 percent higher than the private-sector average of $27.77, the economist noted.

“These figures are consistent with the message we keep hearing from contractors that finding qualified workers keeps getting harder,” Simonson added. He noted that in a survey the association released in January, 78 percent of contractors reported they were having trouble filling some positions and 68 percent said they expected that hiring would remain difficult or become harder.

Association officials said that adding to the pool of potential construction workers is essential, especially if Congress and the president agree on a bold infrastructure funding package. They urged federal officials to include in such legislation initiatives to expand career and technical education that would open the door to careers in construction.

“Including funding for new career and technical education training in a new infrastructure measure will help ensure that the measure creates a significant number of new, high-paying, construction jobs,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “These new jobs will significantly benefit the economy, as will the increased efficiencies that come with improving aging and over-burdened infrastructure.”

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