Construction’s October unemployment rate fell to the lowest monthly level in nearly seven years, as the industry added 12,000 jobs, the Labor Dept. has reported.
Construction economists see the low jobless rate as one signal that the industry may start to have problems finding enough workers for important types of positions.
The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics said in its latest employment snapshot, released on Nov. 7, that construction’s jobless rate declined to 6.4% last month, from September’s 7.0%.
The industry’s rate also was a sharp drop from the year-earlier level of 9.0%.
October’s figure is the industry’s lowest jobless rate since November 2007, when it hit 6.2%, according to BLS data.
The rates are not seasonally adjusted. Construction is a seasonal business and its unemployment rates tend to climb in the cold-weather months when work slows down.
The breakdown of the industry’s October job gains showed a split-screen image, however.
All of the increases came from residential specialty trade contractors, which added 10,300 positions, and in heavy and civil engineering construction, which picked up 5,500.
Those gains outpaced the 4,100 jobs lost in buildings construction and the 100 positions shed by nonresidential specialty trade firms.
Ken Simonson, Associated General Contractors of America chief economist, said, "For the past several months, the construction industry has added jobs at double the all-industry rate of 1.9%."
He added that construction's high level of weekly hours worked—39.2 hours—plus its low unemployment and faster gains in wages "point to an industry that may be on the verge of acute difficulty filling key positions."
Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors chief economist, noted that nonresidential construction lost 1,900 jobs in October. He said that October's decline in the construction jobless rate indicated that "part of the lack of job growth may be attributed to growing difficulties securing skilled talent."
Basu said, "This, in combination with ongoing malaise in public-sector construction spending, is likely at the heart of October's disappointing nonresidential construction employment figures."
More broadly, BLS reported that the national unemployment rate dipped to 5.8% in October, from September’s 5.9%, as the economy added 214,000 jobs.