Construction Jobless Rate Weakens in November
Industry officials trace results to continued worker shortage
Construction’s November unemployment rate rose from October’s level and from its year-earlier figure as the industry gained just 1,000 jobs during the month, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported.
The BLS employment report, released on Dec. 6, showed that construction’s jobless rate climbed to 4.4% last month, from October’s 4.0%. it also increased from the November 2018 mark of 3.9%.
The bureau’s unemployment rates aren’t adjusted for seasonal variations. Construction is subject to seasonal swings in many parts of the country.
The industry added only 1,000 jobs during November, compared with October’s revised level.
But construction’s 7,530,000 total workforce still represented an increase of 146,000, or about 2%, over the 12 months ended Nov. 30.
In its new report, BLS adjusted the construction October total upward by 2,000 from its original preliminary number. Such revisions from initial figures aren’t uncommon.
Construction industry officials say the recent small increases in jobs stem from contractors' continued problems hiring qualified workers, not from slowing construction demand.
Ken Simonson, Associated General Contractors of America chief economist, said in a statement, "Contractors report they remain busy and have lots of projects on their order books. But they find it extremely difficult to fill many positions despite paying more than other industries."
Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors chief economist, has a similar reading of the numbers. He said in a statement that the BLS report "suggests that construction firms will continue to wrestle with profound skilled labor shortages as other industries offer plentiful employment opportunities and more construction workers retire."
The November jobs results were mixed among construction sectors. The strongest numbers were posted by heavy and civil engineering construction and nonresidential specialty trade contractors, each of which recorded a monthly gain of 2,100.
The weakest performances came in nonresidential building, which lost 2,600 jobs, and residential specialty trade firms, which shed 2,300.
Architectural and engineering services, a separate BLS industry category, showed surprisingly strong results, with a gain of 8,400 jobs in November.
In another key indicator, construction workers' average hourly pay was $31.08 in November, up 82¢, or 2.7%, from the year-earlier level.
The BLS jobs and wages figures are seasonally adjusted.
Overall, the economy added a strong 266,000 jobs in November, compared with a gain of 156,000 in October. The unemployment rate edged down to 3.5% from October's 3.6% and also was an improvement over the year-earlier mark of 3.7%, BLS reported.
Story updated on 12/6/2019 p.m. with links and industry comments.