Construction employers added 17,000 jobs in October while the industry's unemployment rate fell to 11.4%, according to an analysis of new federal data released recently by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials noted that total construction employment levels have changed little during the past year while the declines in the industry’s unemployment rate are coming as more former workers leave the industry.
“Despite five consecutive months of construction employment gains, the overall employment picture is essentially unchanged from a year ago,” said Ken Simonson, the association's chief economist. “Construction employment appears stuck in a state of mild monthly flux with little change to the overall number of jobs.”
Construction firms employed 5.539 million people in October, up from 5.522 in September, Simonson noted — an increase of 0.3%. The sector's overall employment in October is 20,000, or 0.4%, higher than one year earlier when firms employed 5.519 million workers. However, Simonson noted that overall construction employment remains down by nearly 2.2 million compared to six years ago when the sector's employment peaked at 7.7 million workers.
Both residential and nonresidential construction added jobs in October, with nonresidential construction outpacing residential construction for the month. Residential construction added 4,700 jobs in October, as residential building contractors lost 2,000 employees while residential specialty contractors added 6,700 new workers. Residential construction employment is now up by 12,300 compared to 12 months ago.
Nonresidential building contractors added 12,200 jobs in October, but are only up by 7,600 jobs compared to one year ago. Nonresidential specialty trade contractors added 10,100 jobs for the months while nonresidential building contractors added another 4,600 jobs. However, heavy and civil engineering construction firms lost 2,500 jobs during the month as public sector investments in construction continued to decline.
Association officials noted that the October data did not reflect impacts from the massive storm that damaged much of the eastern United States. They said reconstruction and repair work that was likely to take place in November and throughout the winter months would have minimal overall effect on construction employment.
“Even as some firms pick up work repairing damaged buildings and infrastructure, other firms will suffer as previously planned projects are cancelled or delayed,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s CEO. “Construction employment is not likely to change significantly because of Hurricane Sandy.”