Construction Industry Experiences Surge in Employment

The construction industry lost 160,000 jobs from March 2001 to February 2003 but has recently gained back about half of those losses, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The most significant job growth occurred in the construction of buildings and specialty trade contracting.

After adding employees for four months in a row, July's specialty trade contractors' employment levels increased to 4,287,600, which is 2% ahead of last year's total. The construction industry also reported the highest total employment since October 2002.

Nonbuilding and Nonresidential Sectors Post Strong Gains in June

The free fall in the nonresidential construction market may be coming to an end. After slipping for many months, the nonresidential construction market reported a 10% gain in June to $158.6 billion, according to McGraw-Hill Construction Dodge. The increase can be attributed to double-digit growth in the church, health-care, and transportation terminal sectors. While nonresidential construction posted gains in June, its numbers for the first half of 2003 were down 8% from a year ago. This year-to-date drop is attributed to several sectors within this building category that have yet to turn around. Schools and transportation terminal work dropped 4%, church construction dropped 13%, amusement-related projects and public buildings fell 15%, and health-care facilities plunged 16%.

The residential sector, however, posted a 7% gain from a year ago. In June, the dollar amount of new single-family starts was up 1%, and multi-family housing climbed 7%. Nonbuilding construction also reported strong numbers after declining 17% for the first half of 2003. The sector increased 29% to $106.8 billion in June due in part to large power plant projects in Wisconsin, Virginia, and Nebraska. Construction of electric utilities, which dropped 46% during the first six months, experienced a 277% jump in the dollar amount of new starts. Overall, new construction starts increased 9% in June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $529.5 million.