The construction industry added 11,000 jobs during May and its unemployment rate improved from April’s level but it was slightly worse than the year-earlier figure, the Labor Dept. has reported,
The latest monthly employment report, which the department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics released on June 2, showed that construction’s jobless rate fell to 5.3% in May, from April’s 6.3%. But the industry’s rate also edged up to 5.3% from the May 2016 level of 5.2%.
The BLS unemployment rates aren’t adjusted for seasonal variations. Construction’s rate tends to improve in the spring and summer months as the amount of building increases.
The industry’s gain in jobs in May spanned nearly all segments; heavy and civil engineering construction led the way, with an increase of 7,200 positions.
Buildings-construction firms added 5,500 and residential specialty trade contractors saw their combined workforces expand by 5,100.
The lone segment to lose jobs last month was nonresidential specialty trade construction, which shed 6,300.
Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors chief economist, said in a statement that the drop in nonresidential specialty trades is consistent with weak construction spending results for April.
The Commerce Dept.’s U.S. Census Bureau reported on June 1 that the value of construction put in place in April dipped 1.4% from the previous month’s level, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1.219 billion.
Basu added, “There is also evidence that the construction labor market continues to tighten, which implies construction firms will continue to struggle to find workers, particularly at higher skill levels.”
Architectural and engineering firms, which BLS categorizes separately from construction, added 400 workers in May.
Associated General Contractors of America officials observed that construction’s total workforce rose 2.9% over the past 12 months, to nearly 6.9 million in May. That rate was almost twice the month’s total nonfarm payroll increase of 1.6%.
Ken Simonson, AGC chief economist, said in a statement that demand for construction services “remains strong.” But he added, "Even so, [construction firms] had to keep employees on the job for more hours because they could not find enough qualified people to hire."
He said construction’s average weekly work-hours increased to 39.9 in May, from April’s 39.6. Last month’s number was the highest May figure since 2006, when BLS began reporting that statistic.
BLS also reported that, overall, the U.S. gained 138,000 jobs in May and the national unemployment rate dipped to 4.3%, from April’s 4.4%. It also improved from the year-earlier rate of 4.7%.