Construction Unemployment: Minor Change in August

"Viewed in its entirety, today’s employment figures represent the notion that the anticipated slowing in U.S. economic activity will be gradual." —ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu.

The unemployment rate for the construction industry edged down to 17 percent in August compared to 17.3 percent one month earlier, according to September 3 employment report by the Department of Labor. In contrast, the nonresidential building construction sector lost 200 jobs last month and has lost 31,900 jobs, or 7.4 percent, over the past year. Nonresidential building construction employment now stands at 682,400 jobs.

While nonresidential building construction employment was down in August, two other nonresidential-related construction sectors posted increases for the month. Heavy and civil engineering construction gained 10,600 jobs in August, the largest increase since March 2007. Still, over the past twelve months, the sector has lost 10,000 jobs or 1.2 percent of employment. Nonresidential specialty trade contractors gained 18,200 jobs in August, the largest monthly increase since October 2007. However, employment in that sector is still down 123,700 jobs, or 5.8 percent, since August 2009.

The residential building construction sector lost 2,600 jobs for the month and has lost 45,700, or 7.4 percent of available employment over the past twelve months. The overall construction industry gained 19,000 jobs in August following three consecutive months of job declines. Year-over-year, the construction industry has lost 274,000 jobs or 4.7 percent of total employment.

Total employment across all industries shrank by 54,000 jobs, the third straight monthly decline. Over that three month period, 283,000 jobs have been lost nationwide. Over the past twelve months, employment is up by 229,000 jobs or 0.2 percent. The national unemployment rate now stands at 9.6 percent with 14.9 million people out of work.

“The nation lost 54,000 jobs and this was viewed as good news – a reflection of the power of lowered expectations,” said Associated Builders and Contractors Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “Many economists had predicted that the nation would shed more than 100,000 jobs in August.

“Financial markets began rebounding immediately upon the release of today’s data. In addition, the nation’s construction sector added jobs, with the most significant growth recorded among nonresidential specialty trade contractors. For two key segments, monthly job performance has not been this good since 2007,” said Basu.

“Viewed in its entirety, today’s employment figures represent the notion that the anticipated slowing in U.S. economic activity will be gradual. Unlike the aftermath of the financial collapse of September 2008, business owners and managers should anticipate steady and moderate deterioration in economic conditions going forward as opposed to a sharp decline in activity. Whether or not the economy will fall into recession next year remains far from clear, but the probability that further slowing will occur remains high,” Basu said.