Nonresidential Building Construction Jobs Down Again in July

"Recovery in construction labor markets is not yet smooth and obvious as many nonresidential construction activities tend to lag behind broader economic cycles." —ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu

Nonresidential building construction shed 5,900 jobs in July, slowing slightly compared to the 6,200 average monthly job loss during the previous three months, according to the Aug. 7 employment report by the U.S. Labor Department. On a year-over-year basis, nonresidential building construction decreased by 99,800 jobs (12.1 percent) to reach 727,800.

Construction lost more jobs than any other major segment of the U.S. economy in July. Heavy and civil engineering construction posted a loss of 10,100 jobs for the month, and 120,700 for the year. Jobs supported by nonresidential specialty trade contractors declined by 32,900 in July and are down by 365,600 compared to last year.

Residential building construction lost 11,200 jobs in July, and 144,500 on a year-over-year basis. Total private construction lost 76,000 jobs for the month and is off by 1,053,000 since July 2008.

Overall, the nation experienced the smallest monthly decline since August 2008 – losing 247,000 jobs in July – but is still down by 5,740,000 jobs (4.2 percent) on a year-over-year basis. The unemployment rate dropped from 9.5 percent in June to 9.4 percent in July, an indication that labor market stabilization continues.

What This Means
“Today’s report was as benign as could have been anticipated,” said Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “National job loss was slower than expected and employment estimates for prior months were revised up slightly, which is being taken as another sign by economists that the labor market and overall economy are on the mend.

“The unemployment rate also declined slightly, which undoubtedly will be viewed by the media as being incredibly important, though this is more likely the result of seasonal factors and statistical impacts that are difficult to adjust for,” added Basu.

“Recovery in construction labor markets, however, is not yet so smooth and obvious. Many nonresidential construction activities tend to lag behind broader economic cycles, including commercial/office construction,” said Basu. “However, the impacts of the stimulus package passed in February should become significantly clearer during the next six to 12 months, and this will help nonresidential construction employment stabilize during that period.”