Construction employment shrank for the second straight month in November as residential, nonresidential building and heavy construction segments remained in low gear, according to an analysis of new federal employment data by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). Association officials said the employment drop reflects continued declines in public-sector investments. They added that construction employment could benefit from increased transportation investments and other pro-growth measures designed to boost private-sector demand.
“Industry employment has remained virtually unchanged since early 2010 despite a pickup in some private construction,” said Ken Simonson, AGC’s chief economist. “Although the construction unemployment rate fell to 13.1% in November from 18.8% a year earlier, the lack of industry job growth means former construction workers are finding work elsewhere or leaving the work force altogether. That’s ominous for future construction hiring.”
Total construction employment now stands at 5.5 million, down 12,000 or 0.2% from a month earlier and only 18,000 (0.3%) higher than in November 2010, the economist said. He noted that industry employment was actually 11,000 lower than in February 2010, while the private sector as a whole added nearly 3 million jobs in that time.
Residential building and specialty trade contractors combined had no change in employment for the month but added 20,400 workers over the year, Simonson observed. Nonresidential building and specialty trade employment slipped by 4,700 in November but was unchanged year-over-year. Heavy and civil engineering construction—representing public works contractors—lost 7,000 jobs in November and 2,900 over the year.