Construction gained 14,000 jobs in August and the industry’s unemployment rate improved modestly from July’s level but rose slightly year over year, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported.
The BLS monthly employment report, released on Sept. 6, shows that construction’s unemployment rate declined to 3.6% from July’s 3.8%, but was up from the year-earlier 3.4%.
The bureau’s jobless rates aren’t adjusted for seasonal swings.
The residential building segment led construction’s August job gains, with a pickup of 7,000.
Nonresidential specialty trade contractors added 5,400 jobs and the heavy and civil engineering category posted an increase of 4,400 positions during the month, BLS reported.
The residential specialty trade contractors segment was the only construction sector to lose jobs, shedding 4,700 for the month.
The bureau also revised its preliminary July figures downward. It now says overall construction jobs fell by 2,000 from June’s level. The initial BLS estimate, issued on Aug. 2, showed a construction gain of 4,000.
Architectural and engineering services, which BLS separates from the construction category, recorded a 1% jobs increase for August.
Ken Simonson, Associated General Contractors of America chief economist, said in a statement, "Construction employment gains would likely have been higher if firms could find even more people to hire."
He noted that a recent AGC survey found that about 80% of reporting contractors said they continue to have problems finding enough qualified craft workers.
Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors chief economist, also noted contractors worker-shortage difficulties.
Basu also said in a statement, "And with a construction backlog of nearly nine months as of June 2019, data indicates that contractors continue to enjoy substantial demand for their services despite the nearly continuous drumbeat of dismal economic forecasts for 2020 and/or 2021."
The industry has added 177,000 jobs in the 12 months ended Aug. 31, an increase of 2.4%. Simonson pointed out that the increase was the lowest in more than six years, but still outpaced the 1.4% pickup in overall nonfarm employment for the period.
Construction hourly earnings averaged $30.84 in August, an increase of 82¢, or 2.7% from the year-earlier figure, BLS said.
Correction on 9/9/19: Story now shows average construction hourly earnings for all private-sector workers. Original story used earnings only for production and nonsupervisory workers in the industry.