The construction industry’s unemployment rate rose in December from the previous month’s level but recorded a slight improvement year over year, as the industry gained a solid 20,000 jobs during the month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported.
The latest BLS monthly report on U.S. employment, released on Jan. 10, showed that construction’s jobless rate climbed to 5.0% from November’s 4.4%, but edged down from the December 2018 mark of 5.1%.
The BLS rates aren’t adjusted for seasonal variations. Construction’s unemployment rate tends to increase in the winter months, as construction activity declines in large parts of the country.
All but one construction industry segment posted employment gains in December, led by nonresidential specialty trade contractors, which added 9,800 jobs, BLS reported
The nonresidential building sector saw its workforce expand by 5,100 positions and residential specialty trade contractors gained 4,300.
The sole segment recording a decrease was residential building, which lost 1,100 jobs in December.
Along with reporting its preliminary figure of an increase of 20,000 construction jobs, BLS also revised its originally reported November increase upward by 1,000, to a total of 2,000.
In all, construction added 151,000 jobs for the year ended Dec. 31, an uptick of 2%.
Architectural and engineering services, which BLS categorizes separately from construction, added 3,100 jobs in the month.
Construction wages, another important indicator, showed a modest average gain of 69¢ per hour, or 2.3%, to $31.11 from the year-earlier average, BLS data show.
Ken Simonson, Associated General Contractors of America chief economist, said that December's 5.0% construction jobless rate was lowest in the 20-year history of those BLS data series. He said in a statement that it also reinforces findings of a recent AGC contractors' survey showing that almost two-thirds of responding firms "said they were having a hard time filling salaried or hourly craft positions in 2019."
Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors chief economist, said that current overall wage growth should support current consumer spending and help restrain inflation, holding down the cost of capital. "Among other benefits," Basu said, "this supports the efforts of developers and others who purchase construction services."
The main issue for construction will be "the hunt for high-quality workers," he added.