Construction industry employment continues its upturn, with an increase of 17,000 jobs in December, recording increases in nearly all sectors, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. 

The BLS’ latest monthly national employment report, released Jan. 5, shows gains in nearly all construction sectors, with the exception of the heavy civil construction, which lost 500 jobs. 

For the 12 months ending Dec. 31, total construction employment rose by 197,000, or 2.5%. December’s results represented construction’s ninth consecutive monthly jobs increase. BLS also reports that construction’s jobless rate declined to 4.4% in December, from November’s 4.8%. The rate also was flat compared with the year-earlier level.

Top Category: Nonresidential Buildings

Nonresidential building construction recorded the strongest December jobs results among the industry’s segments, with an increase of 8,100. Nonresidential specialty trade contractors added 4,300 positions. 

Residential construction employment also was up, with increases of 3,900 in the residential building segment and 1,600 among residential specialty trade contractors. 

BLS said that construction added an average of 16,000 jobs per month last year, compared with a monthly average of 22,000 in 2022.

The bureau’s jobs numbers are adjusted for seasonal differences; its unemployment rate figures are not seasonally adjusted.

Construction wages—for production and nonsupervisory workers—also kept climbing, rising in December by 5.1%, to $34.92 per hour, from $33.22 per hour in December 2022.

Construction Economists Weigh In

“The above-average wages that the construction industry pays have helped contractors add workers,” Ken Simonson, Associated General Contractors of America’s chief economist, said in a statement.

Simonson noted that a new AGC survey showed that more than two-thirds of responding contractors said they intend to expand this year. But he added that “they expect it will be as hard or harder to do so than it was in 2023.”

Overall, the U.S. gained 216,000 jobs in December and the unemployment rate held steady with November’s level of 3.7%, the BLS report says.  

The economy's overall jobs increase was “faster than expected” and the growth in nonresidential construction was “particularly rapid,” says Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors' chief economist.

But Basu notes that the labor force shrank in December by 676,000, “the largest decline since early 2021,” adding that the rate of wage increases has been “faster than expected.”

The BLS report only includes one month of data, Basu adds, but “the combination of faster wage growth and a smaller labor force suggests that interest rates could remain higher for longer.”