Construction jobs bounced back in April, as the industry added 15,000 positions after losses in March, but all of the gains came in the specialty trade contractors category, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported.
The latest monthly BLS employment report, released on May 5, also showed improvements in construction’s jobless rate, which dipped to 4.1% in April from March's 5.6% and from the year-earlier 4.6%.
Industry officials noted that the 4.1% rate is construction’s lowest for the month of April in 23 years, when the current BLS data series began.
The April jobs numbers showed a mixed pattern among construction segments. Specialty trade contractors added 26,700 positions but other categories recorded declines. Heavy and civil engineering construction lost 8,100 jobs and buildings construction shed 3,600.
Total construction employment in April rose by 205,000, or 2.7%, compared with the year-earlier level, BLS reported.
The bureau’s jobs figures are adjusted for seasonal differences; its unemployment rate numbers are not seasonally adjusted.
Contractors' Demand for Workers Still Exceeds Supply
Officials at the Associated General Contractors of America said that the industry probably would have added even more positions if contractors were able to identify additional qualified workers.
Stephen E. Sandherr, AGC chief executive officer, said in a statement, "Contractors can't find, reach, hire and train workers fast enough to keep pace with demand." Sandherr added, "The pool of qualified, available labor is the smallest the industry has ever seen for the month of April."
Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors chief economist, said that contractors' demand for workers significantly exceeds the supply.
Construction wages for production and nonsupervisory workers climbed in April by 6.7%, to $33.94 per hour, compared with year-earlier levels, BLS figures show.
AGC said that earnings figure is 19% higher than for all private-sector production workers.
But ABC's Basu says that apart from the labor market, "signs of a softening economy are apparent."
He cites the Federal Reserve's May 3 decision to raise interest rates yet again and predicts that "credit conditions are likely to tighten further in the months ahead."
Basu said, "Developers and other private purchasers of construction services are likely to suffer difficulty refinancing debt going forward, dampening demand for new construction."
Overall, the U.S. economy gained 253,000 jobs in April and its unemployment rate edged down to 3.4%, from the March level of 3.5%, BLS said.
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