By Tom Ichniowski
Construction’s September unemployment rate equaled its lowest monthly level in more than a decade, although the industry only gained 7,000 jobs during the month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported.
The latest monthly BLS report on the nation’s employment picture, released on Oct. 4, showed construction’s September unemployment rate dipped to 3.2% from August’s 3.6%. It also was down from the September 2018 rate of 4.1%.
Construction's 3.2% mark for September equaled the industry's previous 10-year-plus low, recorded in May. BLS unemployment rates aren’t seasonally adjusted.
Year over year, the industry’s workforce rose in September by 156,000, or 2.1%, to a total of slightly more than 7.5 million, according to BLS’s preliminary figures.
That total also represented a modest increase of 7,000 from the construction industry’s August level.
One cautionary note was that BLS revised its August construction total downward, to a monthly pickup of 4,000 jobs, compared with its original estimate of a gain of 14,000 positions.
BLS often updates its initial monthly jobs figures, which are preliminary, in subsequent reports.
Ken Simonson, the Associated General Contractors of America's chief economist, noted that the 2.1% annual increase in total construction employment was the slowest in more than six years, but still much higher than the 1.4% rise in total non-farm employment. AGC officials say construction's small workforce expansion is probably due to a tight market for labor.
Simonson added in a statement, "Contractors foresee plenty of projects to bid on, and nearly three-fourths of firms expect to add workers during the next 12 months, but most are finding it hard to find qualified workers to hire."
Looking at the September jobs breakdown by construction sectors, the specialty trade contractors category led the way, with an increase of 5,900.
Heavy and civil engineering construction added 2,400.
The only decline came in the nonresidential building segment, which shed 1,600 positions in September.
Architectural and engineering services, which BLS separates from the construction category, gained 3,000 jobs last month.
Construction pay climbed to an average of $30.81 per hour, an increase of 66¢, or 2.2%, year over year, BLS also reported.
Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors chief economist, observed that nonresidential construction employment continued to increase in September, even counting the jobs shed in nonresidential building. Basu said in a statement that the sector's expansion is "a reflection of a segment that remains flush with work."
But he cautioned, "Momentum in commercial construction appears to be fading, perhaps due to a sense that certain market segments have become overbuilt and/or because the cost of construction services has risen sufficiently to render certain projects uneconomical."
See article on ENR.com