Fewer Job Losses in November for Nonresidential Construction

"Overall, job loss in the U.S. has slowed dramatically in recent months, and the markets have responded positively to the unexpected good news." —ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu

In what may be a sign of good news, the nonresidential construction industry lost 600 jobs in November, according to the December 4 employment report by the U.S. Labor Department. Since November of last year, the sector has lost 101,100 jobs or 12.5 percent, and nonresidential construction employment now stands at 705,600.

Heavy and civil engineering construction gained 5,200 jobs in November – the first monthly increase since May 2008. On a year-over-year basis, heavy and civil engineering construction employment is down 109,000 jobs, or 11.6 percent. Meanwhile, nonresidential specialty trade contractors continue to struggle as the sector shed 28,500 jobs for the month and 424,500 jobs, or 17.1 percent, over the past 12 months.

Residential building construction lost 500 jobs in November and has lost 106,200, or 13.6 percent, since the same period one year ago. Total construction employment – which includes both the residential and nonresidential sectors – lost 27,000 jobs for the month and has lost 979,000, or 14.1 percent, since November 2008. This represents the smallest number of construction jobs lost in any given month since November 2007.

The nation’s employment rate in November decreased by only 11,000 jobs, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics revised the previous month’s estimated job losses to 111,000 from the preliminary report of 190,000. Over the past twelve months, total employment in the U.S. is down by 4,759,000 jobs or 3.5 percent. The nation’s unemployment rate now stands at 10 percent, down from 10.2 percent in October.

What This Means
“The November jobs report blew away even the most optimistic expectations,” said Associated Builders and Contractors Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “The pace of monthly nonresidential construction job loss over the past 12 months is in excess of 8,400, which is why a loss of only 600 jobs represents good news.

“Overall, job loss in the U.S. has slowed dramatically in recent months, and the markets have responded positively to the unexpectedly good news,” said Basu. “Construction participated more than fully in the improvement and the industry will enter 2010 with momentum.

“However, nonresidential specialty trade contractors are feeling the pain,” said Basu. “Today’s numbers leave commercial construction contractors with little to celebrate.

“It is important to remember that economic conditions remain far from perfect from the perspective of the sustainability of expansion. The stabilization of the labor market appears largely related to the impact of federal spending in the economy, which helps explain the improved performance of heavy and civil engineering and residential building construction, the latter of which continues to benefit from available tax credits,” said Basu.

“But, the impact of stimulus dollars is not eternal. Stimulus packages are intended to be temporary fixes, and this one is no exception,” said Basu. “While the next several months are shaping up to be a time of improvement for the U.S. economy and for the nonresidential construction industry, how lengthy the recovery will be remains in doubt.”