With relatively minor increases and decreases reported by the industry's various sectors, construction eked out an overall gain of approximately 2,000 jobs during November, continuing its streak of mostly upward job growth during 2023, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Dec. 8.

By category, building contractors reported the greatest overall decline, losing an estimated 2,800 positions during the month, with residential contractors showing 1,700 fewer jobs, and nonresidential builders losing 1,100 positions.

Heavy and civil engineering contractors reported the biggest overall jobs gain in November, with the addition of 3,300 positions.

The specialty trade sector added 1,900 positions overall in November. However, nonresidential specialty trade contractors reported a decline of 800 jobs overall, while the number of residential specialty trade positions increased by 2,700.

Overall, industry job growth has been strong during the last 12 months, noted Associated Builders & Contractors' Economist Anirban Basu. Construction employment has increased by approximately 200,000 on a year-over-year basis.

“U.S. employers once again added jobs at a faster pace than expected in November,” Basu said in a statement, adding: “The industry has added jobs at a significantly faster pace than the broader economy over the past year. That’s especially true for the nonresidential sector, in which employment has increased by an impressive 3.2% over the past year."

As a whole, the U.S. economy added 199,000 jobs in November.

Labor Shortages to Continue

Construction's relatively modest jobs gain in November reflect the difficulty contractors are experiencing hiring workers, says Ken Simonson, chief economist with the Associated General Contractors of America.

“The steep rise in pay for craft and other hourly workers, along with an earlier report of record job openings heading into November, indicate that contractors are still struggling to find enough skilled workers,” Simonson said in a press statement. “The slowdown in employment is a sign of how tight the job market is, not an indication that construction demand is lagging.”

AGC further noted that average hourly earnings for production and nonsupervisory employees in construction have climbed by 5.9% over the past year to $34.96 per hour. 

ABC's Basu concurred, adding that “Faster hiring in the industry has coincided with worsening labor shortages, and that has led to rapid increases in labor costs. With nearly half of contractors planning to increase their staffing levels over the six months, according to ABC’s Construction Confidence Index, wage pressures will remain firmly in place through the early parts of 2024.”