U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in January Shows an Increase in Construction Employment

Press Release Summary:

The Associated Builders and Contractors' analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data on construction employment shows an increase of 52,000 new net jobs in January. The overall industry employment has increased by 338,000 net jobs on a yearly basis which is 4.7 percent growth. According to the report nonresidential construction employment grew by 28,600 net new positions on a monthly basis. The total unemployment of construction industry has increased to 6.4 percent that is 1.3 percent more points from December.

Original Press Release:

Construction Employment Surges to Start Year, Says ABC

WASHINGTON, Feb. 1— Construction employment expanded by 52,000 net new jobs in January, according to an Associated Builders and Contractors analysis of data released today by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Industry employment is up by 338,000 net jobs on a yearly basis, which represents an increase of 4.7 percent. Nonresidential construction employment grew by 28,600 net new positions on a monthly basis, although the nonresidential building sub-sector lost 800 net positions. 

Construction industry unemployment rose to 6.4 percent, up 1.3 percentage points from December but 0.9 percentage points lower than in January 2018. The nationwide unemployment rate inched up a tenth of a percentage point to 4 percent. BLS also revised its estimate for December construction employment to 28,000 net new jobs, down from 38,000.

“Today’s numbers are especially important for construction industry leaders to consider,” said Anirban Basu, ABC’s chief economist. “Because of the federal government shutdown and the market volatility that characterized last year’s final quarter, confidence among consumers and many business operators had been shaken. This is a far cry from a year ago when many economic actors were upbeat after the brilliant financial market performance in 2017 and the passage of tax reform late that year. Today’s jobs report counters concerns that confidence had fallen far enough to jeopardize broader economic momentum and that the federal government shutdown could impact the January employment numbers in a meaningful and negative manner.

“Instead, today’s employment numbers were exceptional,” said Basu. “Not only did the nation manage to add more than 300,000 net new jobs during the initial month of 2019, labor force participation rose further, indicating that more people are being persuaded to participate in the strongest labor market in a generation. What’s more, construction job totals surged higher, with nonresidential construction adding 28,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis in January. This comports neatly with elevated backlog and the notion that a strong economy continues to create fresh opportunities for contractors.

“Today’s data also indicates that contractors will continue to wrestle with their most profound challenge: the lack of sufficient numbers of suitably skilled workers,” said Basu. “This strongly suggests that wage and cost pressures facing the industry will persist well into 2019 and likely beyond. Today’s numbers also help to dampen any emerging concerns regarding a recession in the near term.”

Visit ABC for the Construction Backlog Indicator, Construction Confidence Index and state unemployment reports, plus analysis of spending, employment, GDP and the Producer Price Index.

Associated Builders and Contractors is a national construction industry trade association established in 1950 that represents more than 21,000 members. Founded on the merit shop philosophy, ABC and its 69 chapters help members develop people, win work and deliver that work safely, ethically and profitably for the betterment of the communities in which ABC and its members work. Visit us at abc.org.

Rachel O'Grady, ABC, (202) 905-2104, ogrady@abc.org 

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