Construction gained 30,000 jobs in December and its unemployment rate dropped sharply from its year-earlier level, though it worsened from November’s figure, the Dept. of Labor has reported.
The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics' report on the December employment picture, released on Jan. 5, showed that construction’s jobless rate dipped to 5.9% from the December 2016 mark of 7.4%. Last month’s rate did rise from November’s 5.0%, BLS said.
The bureau’s unemployment rates aren’t seasonally adjusted. Construction’s rate tends to increase in winter months as the volume of building slows in much of the country.
The industry posted a strong 30,000 monthly increase in employment, BLS said during the month, but the picture was uneven among various construction sectors.
Specialty trade contractors led the way, with a gain of 23,800 jobs in December. The residential building segment added 8,200.
But the nonresidential building category lost 1,300 jobs and heavy-civil engineering construction shed 700 positions.
Architectural and engineering services, which BLS lists separately from construction, gained 2,300 jobs last month.
For the 12 months ended in December, total construction employment was 6,993,000, up 3% from 2016, BLS said. Ken Simonson, Associated General Contractors of America chief economist, observed that construction's percentage increase was more than double the 1.4% rise in all nonfarm payroll workers.
Simonson also said in a statement, "Employment and pay in construction have risen more rapidly over the past year than in the economy overall, as the supply of unemployed experienced workers continues to shrink." But he added that contractors still are having trouble filing many hourly craft and salaried positions.
The nation’s overall December unemployment rate was 4.1%, the same as November’s, as the economy added 148,000 jobs, according to BLS.
Anirban Basu, chief economist for the Associated Builders and Contractors—which focuses on nonresidential construction—said the overall jobs increase was below the expected level, "but the construction employment numbers surprised on the upside."
He said in a statement that some of the construction gains probably stemmed from rebuilding efforts in the wake of hurricanes and wildfires. Still, Basu added that "a strengthening U.S. economy is likely responsible for the bulk of construction job growth."