Construction’s July unemployment rate ticked upward from both the June and year-earlier levels and the industry gained 6,000 jobs, the Labor Dept. has reported.
The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics said in its latest monthly employment report, released on Aug. 4, that construction’s July jobless rate was 4.9%, up from the previous month’s and July 2016 figures, which both were 4.5%.
The BLS unemployment rates are not adjusted for seasonal differences. Construction’s month-to-month increase in July is the industry’s first since January.
July also marks the fifth out of seven months this year in which construction’s unemployment rate was higher than the comparable 2016 rate.
Construction’s jobs totals for July were mixed, according to BLS’s preliminary numbers. Buildings construction picked up 5,500 and residential specialty trade contractors added 2,100.
But heavy and civil engineering construction lost 1,200 and nonresidential specialty trade firms shed 900.
Ken Simonson, Associated General Contractors of America chief economist, noted that construction's total workforce has climbed by 191,000, or 2.8% in the 12 months ended in July. That rate is almost double the1.5% increase in total nonfarm employment in that span.
Simonson said indications are that construction contractors continue to have trouble finding workers for certain types of jobs. He said, "Although construction spending has slowed, many contractors are still looking for qualified craft workers and project managers."
At the Associated Builders and Contractors, which focuses on nonresidential constrution, Chief Economist Anirban Basu observed that the sector lost 1,700 jobs during July. He said that could be "largely a statistical anomaly" and cautioned that "it is important not to make too much out of one month of data."
Basu said, "Considered in totality, there is reason to believe that demand for construction services, particularly private demand, will continue to expand over the near term"
Overall, the economy added 209,000 jobs in July, BLS said, and the national unemployment rate edged down to 4.3% from June’s 4.4%. It also improved from the July 2016 mark of 4.9%.