Construction employment was unchanged from May to June, but an increase in hourly pay and longer workweeks, along with shrinking numbers of unemployed construction workers, suggest contractors would hire more workers if they were available, according to a recent analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America.
“Construction employment stalled in June after declining in April and May, but unemployment among construction workers is at a 16-year low, while average hourly earnings have accelerated for the past three months and average weekly hours are very high,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist.
“These indicators, along with reports from contractors, suggest there is a dearth of qualified workers to hire, not a deliberate pullback in hiring. Indeed, construction activity and employment should continue to outpace the overall economy in the remainder of 2016.”
Construction employment totaled 6,643,000 in June, matching the level in May. Industry employment dipped by 6,000 in April and 16,000 in May. Despite the decreases, unemployment employment in the sector increased by 217,000, or 3.4% over the past year, compared to 1.7% for total nonfarm payroll employment.
Average hourly earnings, a measure of wages and salaries for all workers, increased 2.8% in construction over the past year, to $28.13 in June. Both earnings and average weekly hours for all workers in construction—39.2 hours in June—have increased in the past three months even as employment tapered off, Simonson said.
He noted that the 417,000 unemployed jobseekers in June who last worked in the construction industry and the 4.6% unemployment rate for those individuals were the lowest June levels since 2000.
Residential construction, comprising residential building and specialty trade contractors, added 2,300 jobs in June and 134,000, or 5.5%, compared to a year ago. Nonresidential construction—building, specialty trades and heavy and civil engineering construction firms—lost 1,500 jobs for the month but gained 83,000 employees compared to June 2015, a 2.1% rise.