"As a growing share of the nation’s nonresidential construction contractors work through much of their remaining backlogs, job losses will persist and be quite large for months to come." —ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu
Employment in the nation’s nonresidential construction industry continues to fall as 15,400 jobs were lost in March, according the April 3 report by the U.S. Labor Department. For the first quarter of this year the industry shed 49,800 jobs, and on a year-over-year basis, job losses reached 90,700 from March 2008. Nonresidential construction employment now stands at 753,700. (See what this means below)
Meantime, the residential building construction sector lost 18,000 jobs from February – the largest monthly decrease in the cycle. With that, the residential building sector lost 46,800 for the first quarter, still less than the job losses experienced by the nonresidential building sector. Total private construction employment, which includes specialty trade contractors, continues to drop as 126,000 jobs were eliminated in March.
Overall, national employment fell 663,000 for the month, 2,055 for the first quarter and 4,795,000 on a year-over-year basis. The unemployment rate grew to 8.5 percent for March – the highest level since late 1983.
What This Means
“The March jobs report did not provide many surprises. The overall pace of job loss and the corresponding increase in the overall unemployment rate were predicted with near perfection by the community of economists,” said Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) Chief Economist Anirban Basu.
“These data are still informative however. Unlike previous periods in this economic cycle, the bulk of job losses for the first quarter of 2009 were in the nonresidential sector as opposed to the residential sector,” added Basu. “This suggests that the residential construction sector is much closer to its bottom than is the nonresidential construction sector, which is a relative newcomer to the ongoing downturn.
“The data also indicate major employment losses among specialty trade contractors, many of whom are no longer able to secure adequate business revenues in either the residential or nonresidential sectors,” continued Basu.
“As a growing share of the nation’s nonresidential construction contractors work through much of their remaining backlogs, job losses will persist and be quite large for months to come,” added Basu. “However, the stimulus package will likely help moderate these losses later in 2009 and into 2010.”