Construction Employment Up Nationally, Southwest Picture Unclear
Construction was among the industries that reported increased employment levels in September, according to the latest employment statistics from the Dept. of Labor — released nearly three weeks after originally scheduled thanks to the federal government shutdown. But due to the delay, regional reporting for most states and regions has not yet been compiled.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s monthly employment report for September, released Oct. 22, found that overall, total non-farm payroll employment rose by 148,000 in September, and the unemployment rate was virtually unchanged at 7.2%.
The entire Southwest region including Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico were eagerly awaiting the release of the up to date numbers. The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions, The Arizona Department of Administration’s Office of Employment and Population Statistics, and the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation have all released announcements that employment statistics will be delayed for an unknown period.
The last set of regional numbers for the Southwest was reported in September and described the unemployment picture in August.
In August, Nevada experienced a 0.4% upward gain in construction employment between July and August, but is still actually down 0.4% from June. However the numbers in Nevada currently are still better than they were in the late spring and early summer months. New Mexico saw construction employment drop between July and August by 0.5% from 41,500 in July to 41,000 in August. The entire state has actually been in a construction employment downturn since April as the numbers have fallen steadily every month since mid spring. Arizona seems to have taken the hardest hit in the construction job market in the Southwest in the month of August losing 3,100 jobs since July. Arizona did see a May and June spike in construction jobs, however.
Even with the declines among Southwestern states, the construction job-market nationally is experiencing an upturn, and though still far from its mighty pre-recession numbers. Over the past year there has been a 4.2% increase in construction jobs nationally.
According to Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors., the significant drop in construction unemployment could mean that construction firms could have trouble finding experienced workers if the volume of projects continues to expand, as it did in August.
Simonson also cautions that although both the Census and DOL reports indicate that the industry was doing “relatively well” before the federal government shutdown, but the shutdown “likely disrupted a wide variety of projects and may have caused private investors and developers to delay decisions about new projects or plant expansions. As a result, future spending and hiring gains may be weaker.”
It is not just construction jobs seeing an increase either but also the industries, which support construction such as wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing. All of these industries are still seeing positive growth even in the midst of the shutdown that point to good things for the future of the construction industry.
As jobs begin increasing things are looking for good for the construction industry, and even if the Southwest is currently struggling if the national picture become less murky it only stands to reason that jobs will pick up all around.
According to the national statistics, 20,000 new construction jobs were added nationwide in the month of September. The national total of construction jobs has risen by 3.4% since last September, which is showing quality growth considering the lack of federal spending on construction.