The construction industry continues to recover from its coronavirus-caused deep drop in employment, adding 84,000 jobs in October, the industry’s largest monthly increase since June, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported.
But the bureau’s latest monthly employment report, released on Nov. 6, also shows that construction’s total employment in October is still down by 196,000 jobs, or 2.6%, from the year-earlier level.
The October number also represents a falloff of 294,000 jobs, or 3.8%, from the level in February, the last month before the pandemic hit.
BLS also reported that construction’s October unemployment rate improved to 6.8% from September’s 7.1%, but it remained worse than the October 2019 figure of 4.0%.
The jobless rates aren’t adjusted for seasonal differences.
Construction’s October jobs gains, which are seasonally adjusted, surprisingly came across all industry sectors. Other recent data has indicated that though residential construction spending has been strong, the nonresidential sector was weakening.
But the new BLS report shows that nonresidential categories picked up 59,700 jobs in October, including 27,500 in the specialty trades, 18,800 in the infrastructure-related heavy and civil engineering sector, and 13,400 in nonresidential building.
Architectural and engineering services, which BLS categorizes separately from construction, saw its workforce rise by 4,000 jobs in October.
Ken Simonson, Associated General Contractors of America's chief economist, in a statement, called the October BLS report for construction "good news," but also noted that a recent AGC survey "found that only a minority of contractors expect to add to their workforce in the next 12 months."
Simonson added that as nonresidential project cancellations rise, construction job losses will increase unless legislators and policy makers provide more infrastructure funds and other types of relief for contractors.
Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors chief economist, said in a statement, "Nonresidential construction's momentum is especially impressive."
Basu said, "Despite tighter lending conditions, negatively impacted state and local government finances and deteriorating commercial real estate fundamentals, nonresidential construction experienced job creation in each of its three major segments." He added, "That said, there is still much ground to be made up."