Construction employment continues to rise, as the industry added 22,000 jobs in December, the industry’s fourth monthly increase in a row, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported.

The BLS report, released on Jan. 7, showed nearly all construction segments posted job increases in December. The exception was residential specialty trade contractors, which lost 4,800 positions.

Nonresidential specialty trade contractors recorded the strongest results, adding 12,900 jobs. Heavy and civil engineering construction, which includes infrastructure work, gained 10,400 jobs.

Nonresidential building showed an increase of 3,700 and residential building was up by a modest 700 jobs, according to BLS figures.
On a year-over-year basis, construction employment climbed by 160,000 positions, or 2.2%, to 7,560,000, but that total is down by 1.2% from the industry’s pre-pandemic peak of 7,648,000, set in February 2020.

The BLS report also showed that construction’s unemployment rate rose to 5%, from November’s 4.7%, but the rate was a solid improvement from the year-earlier level of 9.6%.

The BLS unemployment rates are not adjusted for seasonal variations and construction’s rate tends to go up in cold-weather months.

Construction Economists' Analyses

Overall, the economy added 199,000 jobs in December, a figure that Associated Builders and Contractors Chief Economist Anirban Basu called “deeply disappointing.”

“The labor market remains extremely tight going into 2022. Contractors will be competing fiercely for talent,” he said in a statement.

He expects the competition for workers to intensify as funds roll out from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Basu predicts that “contractors should expect another year of rapid wage increases in 2022,” which contractors must include in bid prices if they seek to maintain profit margins.

Ken Simonson, Associated General Contractors of America chief economist, said in a statement, "Nonresidential contractors are increasingly busy and are eager to hire even more workers."

"But the low rate of unemployment and record job openings in construction show how difficult it is bringing enough workers on board," he added.

Story corrected 1/7/2022 p.m. to state that the residential specialty trade contractors segment lost 4,800 jobs in December. Nonresidential building segment's jobs increase was corrected on 1/10/2022 .