Construction’s unemployment rate climbed in November to 12.2% from October’s 11.4%, as the industry lost 20,000 jobs last month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.
On the other hand, the latest BLS monthly employment statistics, released on Dec. 7, also showed that construction’s jobless rate last month improved over the November 2012 mark of 13.1%. The BLS rates are not adjusted for seasonal variations, which can be significant in the construction industry.
Nearly all construction sectors shed jobs in November, with buildings accounting for 11,100 positions lost and heavy-civil construction losing 3,800, BLS reported. Only residential specialty trade contractors saw a pickup, adding 3,200 jobs.
The architectural and engineering services industry, which BLS categorizes separately from construction, was another modest bright spot, gaining 2,400 jobs in November.
Associated Builders and Contractors Chief Economist Anirban Basu said, "If there was any question that the construction industry continues to struggle, today's Labor Dept. employment report provided the answer." Basu added, "In November, the economy essentially wiped out the previous gains that had been registered in the construction industry."
Ken Simonson, Associated General Contractors of America chief economist, said, “As disappointing as these numbers are, they will only get worse if Congress and the White House allow huge tax increases and spending cuts to occur on Jan. 1.”
An AGC survey showed that the threat of mandatory spending cuts and tax increases that make up the “fiscal cliff” has hurt construction hiring already. The survey of 551 firms showed 54% said they have laid off workers, 67% postponed hiring and 65% delayed or canceled some capital spending. Firms were surveyed between Nov. 28 and Dec. 6.
Hurricane Sandy hit Eastern states hard in late October, but BLS said, “Our analysis suggests that [the storm] did not substantively impact the national employment and unemployment estimates for November.”
The bureau noted that it would release its November state and regional jobs estimates on Nov. 21.
Over all, BLS says the national jobless rate declined to 7.7% last month, from October’s 7.9%, as the economy added 146,000 jobs.