Construction’s unemployment rate declined in October to 11.4% from September’s 11.9%, as the industry recorded a gain of 17,000 jobs in the month.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest monthly report on the employment picture, released on Nov. 2, also showed that construction’s rate last month improved over the October 2012 mark of 13.7%. The BLS rates are not adjusted for seasonal variations.
Associated General Contractors officials said the BLS numbers did not show any impacts from Superstorm Sandy. They said any jobs impact from post-storm repairs and rebuilding probably wouldn’t be start to be reflected until November’s statistics and the reports for the months after that.
Stephen Sandherr, AGC’s CEO, said that overall construction employment is not expected to show a major net change because of the hurricane. He said, “Even as some firms pick up work repairing damaged buildings and infrastructure, other firms will suffer as previously planned projects are cancelled or delayed.”
The BLS October numbers for construction sectors show that specialty trade contractors did best, adding 16,800 jobs in the month. The nonresidential specialty trade firms accounted for 10,100 of those new jobs.
Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors chief economist, said the October construction jobs report was “surprisingly good” and called nonresidential specialty firms’ pickup in jobs “a reversal of fortune.”
But heavy and civil construction didn’t fare well, losing 2,500 positions last month. Basu said some view heavy-civil as leading indicator for the whole nonresidential-building segment. He added that “it may be that the owner/developer community is taking a wait-and-see attitude as we approach next week’s elections and the lame duck congressional session to follow.”
Architectural and engineering services, which BLS separates from its construction category, gained 1,500 jobs in October.
AGC Chief Economist Ken Simonson said that even though construction has added jobs for five straight months, the industry’s total employment has risen by only 0.4% over the past 12 months and is down by about 2.2 million compared with the 2006 peak of 7.7 million.
Over all, BLS says the national jobless rate edged up to 7.9% last month, from September’s 7.8%, as the economy added 171,000 jobs. The October results are the last of the bureau’s closely watched employment reports before the Nov. 6 elections.