Construction posted its eighth straight monthly jobs gain, recording a strong increase of 28,000 positions in December, but the industry’s unemployment rate showed mixed results, the Labor Dept.’s Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported. In its latest monthly look at the nation’s employment picture, released on Dec. 6, BLS said all construction sectors added jobs, led by nonresidential specialty trade contractors, which gained 10,200.
Residential specialty trade contractors’ payrolls rose by 6,400 and nonresidential building was up by 5,800. Heavy and civil engineering construction employment also increased, though by a modest 1,900. BLS also noted that construction employment climbed by an average of 19,000 per month in 2022, up from an average of 16,000 in 2021.
Construction economists also noted that the industry’s total employment increased by 231,000, or 3.1%, compared to the same month in the previous year.
The latest BLS report “indicates that contractors collectively remain in expansion mode despite rising costs of capital and fears of recession,” Anirban Basu, chief economist of the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), said in a statement.
“There are more people working in construction today than ever before and those figures are likely to increase,” Ken Simonson, chief economist of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), said in a statement.
Architectural and engineering services, a separate BLS category from construction, gained 2,400 jobs in December.
Construction’s jobless rate rose to 4.4% in December, from November’s 3.9%, but the industry’s rate declined from 5% a year earlier. AGC says the 4.4% figure marked a record low December level.
BLS unemployment rates are not adjusted for seasonal variations, but the bureau’s jobs numbers are seasonally adjusted.
Average daily earnings for production and nonsupervisory construction workers increased 6.1% from the December 2021 levels, compared with a 5% increase for all private-sector production workers, Simonson says.
Basu says that nonresidential contractors—ABC’s prime focus—“continue to ramp up staffing in the context of elevated backlog.” Still, he adds that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates further, “with the implication that a recession remains a real possibility in 2023.”
The U.S. economy overall continued to gain jobs, adding 223,000 in December, but the increase slowed from a rise of 256,000 in November and the unemployment rate edged downward to 3.5% from November’s 3.6%.