Construction's unemployment rate dropped in July on a monthly and year-over-year basis to its lowest level in 17 months, as the industry added 11,000 jobs, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported.
But the latest monthly BLS report on the nation's employment picture, released on Aug. 6, also showed job losses in some parts of the industry's nonresidential sector.
Construction’s unemployment rate for July declined to 6.1% from June’s 7.5%. Last month’s rate also improved sharply from the year-earlier level of 8.9%, BLS figures show.
July’s rate was the lowest since February 2020’s mark, the last month before the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Notably, construction's July jobs increase followed three months of downturns.
The residential building category recorded the strongest July jobs results, adding 8,300.
The nonresidential sector overall was up by 2,900 positions, but a gain of 7,500 in the nonresidential specialty trade contractors segment masked declines of 2,500 in nonresidential building and 2,100 in heavy and civil engineering construction.
For the 12 months ended July 31, construction overall added 224,000 jobs, an increase of 3.1%, BLS data indicate.
The bureau's jobs figures are adjusted for seasonal differences, but its unemployment rates are not seasonally adjusted.
ABC, AGC Economists' Analyses
Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors chief economist, traced the big upturn in nonresidential trade contractors to “considerable work underway” in upgrading existing facilities.
Basu said in a statement, “That helps explain why nonresidential specialty trade contractors added thousands of jobs last month while general [nonresidential] contractors did not.” ABC focuses on nonresidential construction.
He also pointed to liquidity in the economy as a key factor behind the recovery. Some of that capital is being invested in real estate, he said, “which translates into additional construction work."
Still, Basu acknowledged, new construction remains “suppressed” in such segments as lodging and office buildings, due to dislocations from the pandemic.
The Associated General Contractors of America pointed out that total nonresidential construction employment is running far behind pre-pandemic levels.
Ken Simonson, AGC’s chief economist, said in a statement, “Contractors are plagued by soaring materials costs, long or uncertain delivery times and hesitancy by project owners to commit to construction.”
Simonson added, “Recovery has been especially slow in infrastructure construction,” noting that contractors in that category have regained only 37% of jobs lost in the pandemic.
Overall, the U.S. economy added 943,000 jobs in July, and the unemployment rate edged down to 5.4%, from June's 5.9%.