The construction employment picture showed mixed results in January as its jobless rate rose both from the previous month’s and year-earlier levels, but the industry added a strong 36,000 jobs, the Labor Dept. has reported.
Construction’s 9.4% jobless rate for January climbed from December’s 7.4% and January 2016’s 8.5%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics latest monthly employment report, released on Feb. 3.
January’s rate marks the first year-over-year increase for that key indicator since September 2010. The rates aren’t adjusted for seasonal differences, so weather conditions can affect the month-to-month comparisons.
The bright note for construction in the BLS report is the industry’s gain of 36,000 jobs last month. The increases were across-the-board, led by residential specialty trade contractors’ pickup of 11,300 positions.
Residential building firms added 9,000 jobs in January and the heavy-civil engineering segment saw its workforce expand by 6,300. The BLS jobs figures are seasonally adjusted.
Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors chief economist, said the year-to-year jump in construction's unemployment rate isn't due mainly to a decline in seasonal construction jobs. He added in a statement, "The better explanation is that more people have begun to look for work in the construction industry" perhaps because of indications of a Trump administration infrastructure plan.
Ken Simonson, Associated General Contractors chief economist, focused on the industry's jobs increase, saying in a statement that the BLS numbers square with reports AGC has been getting from contractors, that construction "is still eager to add workers." Simonson also said that construction workers' hourly earnings rose 3.2% in the past 12 months, compared with a 2.5% increase for all private-sector workers.
BLS said the overall U.S. unemployment rate edged up to 4.8% in January from December’s 4.7% but the economy added 227,000 jobs. The national rate was a slight improvement over January 2016’s 4.9%.
Story updated 2/3/17 at 4:17 pm to include industry economists' comments.