Construction employment continues to record solid gains, with 24,000 new jobs in February and increases in all industry sectors, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. BLS also says in its latest monthly employment report, released March 10, that construction’s jobless rate declined to 6.6% in February, from January’s 6.9% and the year-earlier's 6.7%.

Residential specialty trade contractors posted the best results among construction segments, adding 11,200 positions. Heavy and civil engineering construction gained 7,700.

Nonresidential building showed an increase of 1,700 jobs and residential building,1,200.

Architectural and engineering services, a separate industry category, grew by 4,600 positions last month.

For the 12 months ended Feb. 28, construction employment rose by 249,000, or 3.2%, to a total of 7,918,000.

The Associated General Contractors of America points to "hefty pay raises" for workers as a factor behind the strong construction jobs picture.

AGC Analysis

Ken Simonson, AGC's chief economist, said in a statement, "Average hourly earnings for craft and office workers in construction have consistently risen more sharply than across the private sector as a whole for several months."  

He adds, "That has helped the industry add employees at a strong clip–but many more are still needed."

AGC says average hourly pay for construction production and nonsupervisory workers increased by 6.1% from year-earlier levels. That compares with a 5.3% gain for all private-sector workers.

The bureau’s jobs totals are adjusted for seasonal variations; its unemployment rates are not seasonally adjusted.

Overall, the U.S. economy added 311,000 jobs in February but the national jobless rate moved up to 3.6% from January's 3.4%.

ABC Analysis 

Anirban Basu, the Associated Builders and Contractors chief economist, said in a statement, "While industry momentum persists, the jobs report suggests that the Federal Reserve has more work to do to slow the economy." 

That could lead to further tightening of monetary policy by the Fed, Basu adds. If construction project financing gets more costly, the industry's momentum "may falter," he says.

Still Basu sees some contractors having "significant workflow" even if the economy falls into a recession: "That's due to the arrival of megaprojects, including those emerging from infrastructure programs and investment in more manufacturing capacity in America."