The construction industry ended 2014 on a strong note, with a surge of 48,000 jobs in December, driving its unemployment rate down sharply from its year-earlier level, though it was up from November’s mark.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Jan. 9 that construction’s jobless rate last month was 8.3%, well below its 11.4% December 2013 rate.
But the December unemployment rate was higher than November’s 7.5% as the industry’s work volume slowed with winter’s onset.
BLS also reported that construction’s average unemployment rate for 2014 was 8.9%, the lowest annual level since 2007.
The BLS industry rates aren’t adjusted for seasonal variations.
The 48,000 jobs gained was the largest monthly increase since January, when the industry added 51,000 positions.
Ken Simonson, Associated General Contractors of America’s chief economist, also pointed out that construction added 290,000 jobs for all of 2014, the best annual figure since 2005
Specialty trade contractors led construction’s December gains, adding 25,500. That total was split almost evenly between residential and nonresidential segments.
Heavy and civil engineering picked up 11,600 and buildings construction gained 10,800 last month.
Simonson said, “Construction firms are clearly ramping up their hiring to keep up with swelling demand….” He added, “Demand for workers to construct apartments, pipelines and huge industrial projects is likely to remain robust in 2015.”
Architectural and engineering services, a separate BLS industry category from construction, also saw its workforce expand, posting an increase of 5,100 jobs last month.
Robert Murray, Dodge Data & Analytics chief economist and vice president, noted that the rate of construction employment gains continues to rise, to 3.6% last year, from 3.2% in 2013, 2.0% in 2012 and 0.3% in 2011. (Dodge Data & Analytics is ENR's parent company.)
Murray also said that jobs in the heavy-civil construction sector climbed 3.6% in 2014 and nonresidential-building construction employment was up 2.8%.
"With the broadening of the construction expansion that took hold in 2014 and is forecast to continue during 2015, more construction job growth is anticipated, particularly as it relates to the nonresidential building market," he added.
BLS said the U.S. economy added 252,000 jobs in December, and the overall unemployment rate edged downward to 5.6% from November’s 5.8%.
Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors chief economist, said the economy’s 2014 average monthly jobs gain "represents good news for the construction industry in 2015 and perhaps beyond, particularly with respect to office construction, retail construction and other segments that benefit directly from accelerating job growth and decreasing unemployment.”