Construction added 23,000 jobs to its workforce in August as the industry’s unemployment rate held even with July’s but fell year over year, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics says.
The BLS August employment report, released on Sept. 7, shows that construction’s August jobless rate stood at 3.4%, the same as July’s mark and down sharply from the August 2017 level of 4.7%.
The 3.4% rates for the past two months are the lowest since at least 2000, according to BLS statistics.The BLS rates aren’t adjusted for seasonal variations.
The industry’s jobs gains spanned all but one industry segment and were paced by the specialty trade contractors category, which added 15,300 positions.
The buildings construction sector’s workforce expanded by 7,400 in August, but the heavy and civil engineering construction segment shed 200 jobs last month.
Industry economists noted that construction's workforce rose by 297,000, or 4.3%, for the 12 months ended Aug. 31.
Architectural and engineering services, which BLS categorizes separately from construction, gained 6,000 jobs.
Ken Simonson, Associated General Contractors of America chief economist, said in a statement, "The construction industry continues to add workers and increase pay at greater rates than the economy as a whole." He notes that construction hourly earnings rose 3.8% in August, to an average of $29.95.
Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors chief economist, said in a statement that because of the overall U.S. labor market trend, consumer and busienss confidence and other factors, construction companies "can expect plentiful bidding opportunities during the months ahead."
But Simonson and Basu also noted that construction firms still are having problems attracting enough skilled workers. Basu said that could push wages higher and, with construction-materials costs climbing, will tend to move overall construction costs upward. He said those factors "may eventually undermine the volume of construction starts."
Overall, BLS said the U.S. gained 201,000 jobs in August and the national unemployment rate was 3.9%, the same as July’s and a decrease from August 2017’s 4.4%.
Story corrected on 9/10/18: The 4.3% gain in total construction employment is for the 12 months ended Aug. 31, not July 31.