Construction added 23,000 jobs in September but the industry’s unemployment rate showed uneven trends, rising from August’s level but declining year over year, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported.
The latest BLS monthly report on the nation’s employment situation, released on Oct. 5, shows that construction’s September jobless rate increased to 4.1% from August’s 3.4% but it also improved from the year-earlier 4.7%.
The rates aren’t adjusted for seasonal variations.
Construction’s September jobs gains came in all but one industry segment, residential buildings, which recorded a loss of 1,800 positions during the month.
Nonresidential specialty trade contractors posted the strongest result, with an increase of 9,300 jobs.
The heavy-civil engineering construction category gained 7,100 jobs, residential specialty trade contractors saw their combined workforce expand by 6,200 and the nonresidential building segment was up by 2,200 jobs.
In the 12 months ended on Sept. 30, construction’s total employment climbed by 315,000, or 4.5%, to about 7.3 million, according to the BLS report.
Architectural and engineering services, a separate BLS industry category, shed 1,400 jobs in September.
The September construction workforce total is the highest in 10 years, the Associated General Contractors of America noted.
AGC also pointed out that construction's average hourly earnings increased 3.1% to $30.18, which is 10.7% above the level for nonfarm private-sector/positions.
AGC Chief Economist Ken Simonson said in a statement that "the pool of unemployed workers with construction experience has nearly evaporated, pushing up contractors' costs and adding to project completion time."
Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors chief economist, said in a statement that construction contractors are seeing increased borrowing costs and also "will find it increasingly difficult to recruit labor...."
Basu cited Amazon's Oct. 2 announcement that it will raise its base hourly wage to $15 per hour and said, "It is perfectly conceivable that more junior member of the construction workforce...heard about Amazon's new $15 minimum wage."
Overall, the U.S. economy added 134,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate improved to 3.7% from August’s 3.9%, BLS reported.
Story updated on 10/6/2018 with comments from construction industry economists.
September’s overall rate also was down from the year-earlier mark of 4.2%.