Nonresidential Construction Employment Rises in November

According to data released Friday by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national construction industry added 1,000 net new jobs in November.

Key Takeaways

  • The construction industry added 1,000 net new jobs in November and, on a year-over-year basis, has expanded by 146,000 jobs, an increase of 2%.
  • The construction unemployment rate rose to 4.4% in October, up from 4.0% in September and up .5 percentage points from October 2018.
  • Nonresidential construction employment increased by 1,600 jobs on net in November and is up by 98,600 net jobs over the last 12 months.
  • “Any near-term recessionary fears during the summer have been neatly extinguished. While labor market data tend to be lagging indicators, it is clear that the U.S. economy retains plentiful momentum as it heads toward 2020. Today’s release also suggests that construction firms will continue to wrestle with profound skilled labor shortages as other industries offer plentiful employment opportunities and more construction workers retire.”


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

Nonresidential Construction Employment Rises in November, Says ABC

WASHINGTON, Dec. 6—The construction industry added 1,000 net new jobs in November, according to an Associated Builders and Contractors analysis of data released today by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On a year-over-year basis, industry employment has expanded by 146,000 jobs, an increase of 2.0%.

Nonresidential construction employment increased by 1,600 jobs on net in November and is up by 98,600 net jobs over the last 12 months. Job gains were split between nonresidential specialty trade and heavy and civil engineering, both of which added 2,100 jobs. Nonresidential building lost 2,600 jobs last month and is down 9,100 jobs for the year.

The construction unemployment rate was 4.4% in November, up 0.5 percentage points from the same time last year. Unemployment across all industries was 3.5% in November, 0.1 percentage points lower than the previous month.

“Any near-term recessionary fears during the summer have been neatly extinguished,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “While labor market data tend to be lagging indicators, it is clear that the U.S. economy retains plentiful momentum as it heads toward 2020. Today’s release also suggests that construction firms will continue to wrestle with profound skilled labor shortages as other industries offer plentiful employment opportunities and more construction workers retire.

“Despite ongoing challenges in recruitment, nonresidential construction added 1,600 jobs in November according to today’s release,” said Basu. “However, job growth within the segment has become uneven. Recent data regarding the level of investment in structures as well as spending in certain construction segments such as office and retail indicate some softening in private construction. On the other hand, public construction spending continues to be quite strong, fueled by healthy state and local government finances in much of the country. This coincides with the addition of 2,100 jobs in the heavy and civil engineering construction sector and elevated levels of backlog for contractors in the infrastructure category, according to ABC’s Construction Backlog Indicator.

“Few economists expected a recession to begin in 2019,” said Basu. “Those who did will ultimately have been proven incorrect. However, 2020 could be quite different given the rising levels of uncertainty facing various decision makers as the global economy weakens, trade wars persist, and next year’s elections approach.”


Press Release from Associated General Contractors of America(AGC)

Construction Employment Rises by 1,000 in November and 146,000 in 12 Months; Slowing Job Gains May Be Sign of Labor Shortages, Not Slumping Demand

Industry Continues to Add Workers Faster and Pay Higher Wages than Overall Economy as Association Officials Call on Congress and the White House to Pass the JOBS Act, Boost Funding for Career Training

Construction employment increased by 1,000 jobs in November and by 146,000, or 2.0 percent, over the past 12 months, according to an analysis of new government data by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials said recent modest monthly increases in industry employment likely reflect the difficulty contractors are having in finding workers rather than a letup in demand. Officials urged federal officials to pass the JOBS Act and boost funding for career and technical education programs to help ease labor shortages.

“Contractors report they remain busy and have lots of projects on their order books,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “But they find it extremely difficult to fill many positions despite paying more than other industries. That’s not surprising, given that the total unemployment rate returned to a 50-year low in November—a sign that all industries are competing for workers.”

Simonson observed that the average weekly hours for all employees in construction increased from 38.7 in November 2018 to 39.1 in November 2019, even though construction employment rose by 2.0 percent over the year. In contrast, weekly hours for the overall private sector remained flat at 34.4 hours, while total nonfarm employment increased by 1.5 percent.

“One takeaway from these numbers is that contractors are adding workers faster than other sectors, but they are eager to hire even more people to keep pace with strong demand for projects,” Simonson commented. “To make up for the shortfall, many firms are asking workers to put in more hours.” The construction economist noted that it will be difficult for firms to continue asking existing staff to compensate for labor shortages in the long run.

Average hourly earnings in construction—a measure of all wages and salaries—increased 2.7 percent over the year to $31.08. That figure was 10.2 percent higher than the private-sector average of $28.29, the association official noted.

Association officials said Congress and the Trump administration should address construction labor shortages by passing the JOBs Act, boosting funding for career and technical education and enacting comprehensive immigration reform measures. The JOBS act would make it easier for students in short-term credentialing programs that teach skills like construction to qualify for federal Pell Grants, they noted.

“Labor shortages are making it harder for firms to keep pace with demand, and more important, it is making it harder for them to add new people to their payrolls,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Making it easier for young adults to acquire construction skills and for skilled workers to enter the country when they are needed will put many more people to work in high-paying construction careers.”

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