Construction’s October unemployment rate rose to 5.7% from September’s 5.2%, but declined from the year-earlier 6.2% as the industry added 11,000 jobs, the Dept. of Labor has reported.
The latest monthly employment report from the department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, released on Nov. 4, continued construction’s six-year streak of year-over-year improvement in its unemployment rate.
The BLS rates aren’t adjusted for seasonal variations. Construction’s jobless rates tend to bottom out in the summer and increase in the fall and winter as building volume slows in much of the country.
Nearly all construction sectors saw workforce increases last month, led by non-residential special trade contractors, which added 4,100 jobs.
The heavy and civil engineering segment, which includes infrastructure work, gained 3,400.
Residential building picked up 2,600, and residential specialty trade firms gained 1,900.
The only category to post a downturn was non-residential building, which lost 800,000 positions.
Architectural and engineering services, which BLS lists separately from construction, recorded an increase of 3,000.
Compared with year-earlier levels, construction employment was up by 195,000, or 3%, notes the Associated General Contractors of America. But AGC points out that all of the gains came from firms that focus on private-sector work; those working on public-sector projects lost 1,200 jobs year over year.
Ken Simonson, AGC chief economist, said in a statement, "Overall construction employment would certainly be higher if local, state and federal officials were investing more to build and repair aging infrastructure."
At the Associated Builders and Contractors, which concentrates on non-residential construction, Chief Economist Anirban Basu, in a statement, called the October BLS numbers "reasonably positive from a topline perspective."
But Basu observed that nonresidential construction spending has not been rising of late, which, he said, may indicate that "job growth in the industry will not be sustained." On the other hand, he said there is hope that, after the elections, there will be "renewed confidence" in the private and public sector, which could lead to stronger non-residential construction spending.
Overall, BLS said, the economy added 161,000 jobs in October, nudging the unemployment rate down to 4.9% from September’s 5.0%. That much-watched economic indicator has hovered between 4.9% and 5.0% for most of the past 12 months.