Construction’s unemployment rate continued to show year-over-year improvement, falling to 8.5% in January from the year-earlier 9.8% as the industry added 18,000 jobs last month, the Labor Dept. has reported.
But the Feb. 5 report from the department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics also showed that construction’s jobless rate worsened from December’s 7.5% as the winter slowdown in building took stronger hold.
The bureau’s rates aren’t adjusted for seasonal variations.
BLS also said that construction’s January job gains were led by the buildings sector, which picked up 12,800 positions, and residential specialty trade contractors, whose workforce expanded by 12,600.
On the negative side, heavy-civil engineering construction lost 5,200 jobs last month and nonresidential specialty trade firms shed 2,400.
The Associated General Contractors of America noted that construction’s January unemployment rate was the lowest for that month in 17 years.
Ken Simonson, AGC chief economist, said in a statement, “While the construction industry continues to add jobs, the January figures mark a significant decline in the rate of growth compared to the end of last year.”
He added, “It will take a few months to evaluate whether firms are running out of people to hire or if broader economic uncertainty is leading to a decline in demand for many types of construction services.”
Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors chief economist, in a statement noted heavy-civil construction’s job losses, but added that most reports indicate the sector “can look forward to a brighter future, given recent federal funding commitments.” For example, the FAST Act, signed into law in December, increases highway and transit funding over five years, with a particularly large boost iin 2016.
Basu added, “For now, the nonresidential construction recovery remains in place, but there are indications that cracks are forming in the ongoing economic recovery and that those cracks could widen further as the year progresses.”
Overall, BLS said that the U.S. economy gained 151,000 jobs in January and the national unemployment rate edged down to 4.9% from the 5.0% recorded for December and the previous two months.
As the death toll from the record-setting hurricane mounts in the Bahamas and damage estimates there and in the U.S. head into the billions, industry experts see increasing pressure to address infrastructure resilience.