Construction Industry Unemployment Falls to 14.5 Percent in April

"The nation’s economy has managed to regain some semblance of momentum since last September, which should ultimately translate into better news for the construction industry." —ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu.

Despite a loss of 2,000 jobs in April, the nation’s construction unemployment rate fell to 14.5 percent, down from 17.2 percent in March and 17.8 percent in April 2011, according to the May 4 employment report by the U.S. Labor Department. Year over year, the construction industry has added 63,000 jobs or 1.1 percent.

The nonresidential building construction sector lost 1,100 jobs for the month but has added 6,000 jobs, a 0.9 percent increase year-over-year as April employment stood at 658,400. Residential building construction employment slipped by 2,500 jobs last month, but employment is still up by 700 jobs, as employment stood at 566,000 in April.

Nonresidential specialty trade contractors shed 8,400 jobs for the month but have gained 3,900 jobs, a 0.2 percent increase since last April. Residential specialty trade contractor employment was up by 6,300 jobs for the month and the sector has added 33,100 jobs, a 2.3 percent increase from one year ago. Heavy and civil engineering construction employment went up by 3,300 jobs for the month and has added 18,400 jobs, a 2.2 percent increase from April 2011.

Across all industries, the nation added 115,000 jobs as the private sector expanded by 130,000 jobs and the public sector shrank by 15,000 jobs. Year over year, the nation has added 1,816,000 jobs, or a 1.4 percent increase to job totals. The unemployment rate stood at 8.1 percent in April, down from 8.2 percent in March.

“Today’s employment report represents the latest in a number of data releases indicating that the momentum in nonresidential construction does not carry into the new year,” said Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “While overall construction employment was down just 2,000 jobs for the month, payrolls at nonresidential specialty trade contractors slipped by 8,400, an indication that more construction projects are being completed relative to construction starts.

“However, the nation’s economy has managed to regain some semblance of momentum since last September, which should ultimately translate into better news for the construction industry,” Basu said. “While today’s top-line job growth estimate of 115,000 was below the consensus estimates of nearly 170,000, previous months were significantly revised upward.

“For the second consecutive year, the nation’s economy has softened during the January-April period,” Basu said. “However, U.S. economic fundamentals are better now than they were a year ago as there is no immediate debt ceiling confrontation ahead.

“In addition, commodity and construction input prices have also been better behaved than a year ago which indicates that the broader U.S. economy, and eventually the construction industry, are positioned to expand,” said Basu.

“ABC’s Construction Backlog Indicator (CBI) predicted the current lull in construction activity,” Basu said. “It is possible that commercial and industrial construction will remain soft for a few more months. We will know more when the 1st quarter 2012 report comes out on May 15.”