The construction unemployment rate for July dropped sharply from June and year-earlier levels, falling to 3.4%, the lowest monthly figure since at least January 2000, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics says.
The bureau’s latest monthly look at the nation’s employment picture, released on Aug. 3, also showed that construction added 19,000 jobs during July.
BLS’s report said that the construction industry’s 3.4% jobless rate was an improvement over June’s rate of 4.7% and the July 2017 level of 4.9%. The bureau’s unemployment rates aren’t adjusted for seasonal variations.
The BLS monthly construction unemployment rate data series only goes back to 2000. BLS provided ENR with several earlier years’ data, which show no rates lower than 3.4% as far back as 1993.
Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors chief economist, said in a statement that construction’s jobless rate may have fallen below 3.4% sometime in the past but there is no historic data available to confirm that.
Basu added, “What we know for sure is that contractors will continue to scramble for workers in the context of aggressive spending on structures and other forms of construction.”
The July jobs gains pushed the industry’s total employment to 7,242,000, up 308,000, or 4.4%, over the previous 12 months.
Ken Simonson, Associated General Contractors of America chief economist, noted that construction’s 4.4% jobs increase is almost three times the 1.6% overall industry employment gain for the 12 months ended July 31.
Simonson said in a statement, “But it is getting ever harder for contractors to find workers despite offering above-average pay and good career advancement opportunities.”
Last month’s pickup in construction jobs spanned all industry segments. Most of the increase came among specialty trade contractors, which added 14,200 positions.
The buildings construction sector was up by 4,400, and the heavy-civil engineering segment gained 800.
Architectural and engineering services, which BLS lists separately from construction, showed an increase of 4,800.
The overall July unemployment rate dipped to 3.9%, from June’s 4.0 and the year-earlier 4.3%, BLS said, as the economy added 157,000 jobs.