For the seventh consecutive month, the U.S. construction industry posted job gains, this time recording an across-the-board overall increase of 23,000 positions during October, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Specialty trade contractors added the most jobs, with a gain of 14,200, reports BLS. Of that figure, residential specialty trade contractors added 10,000 positions, while nonresidential specialty trade contractors boosted employment by 4,200.

Building contractors reported overall job gains of approximately 6,300, with residential contractors adding 3,700 overall, while nonresidential building contractors reported a gain of 2,600 jobs.

Heavy and civil engineering contractors reported an increase of 1,600 jobs for the month.

Construction's overall unemployment rate increased in October, to 4.0% from September's 3.8% rate, but was down slightly compared to the year-ago figure of 4.1%.

Worries Over Wage Growth

Construction workers' earnings increased during October, BLS reported, with the average hourly rate rising from $36.83 to $37, and weekly earnings increasing to $1,446.70. On a year-over-year basis, construction workers' wages have increased by 5%. That is a concern however, according to Anirban Basu, chief economist for the Associated Builders and Contractors.

“While contractors’ demand for labor remains robust, the rising cost of labor, pushed upward by worker shortages, remains a pressing issue for the industry,” says Basu.

“Average hourly earnings for construction workers increased at over twice the rate of economy-wide wages in October and have risen significantly faster over the past 12 months," Basu adds. "With over half of contractors intending to increase their staffing levels over the next six months and fewer than 7% intending to downsize, according to ABC’s Construction Confidence Index, labor shortages should continue to push wages higher over the next few quarters.”

Ken Simonson, chief economist with the Associated General Contractors of America, notes that contractors are still having trouble hiring workers, even with the increase in wages.

“Despite the fact pay for hourly craft workers in construction is rising faster than for production employees, contractors are still struggling to find enough skilled workers,” says Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Both residential and nonresidential construction employers want to hire even more workers.”