US: employment gains in residential construction sector offset non-residential job losses

According to new federal data from the Associated General Contractors of America, construction employers added 1,000 jobs in August, industry unemployment rate hit 11.3%; sector workforce shrank by over 200,000.

US construction employers added 1,000 jobs in August while the industry’s unemployment rate fell to 11.3%, according to an analysis of new federal data released by the Associated General Contractors of America. The unemployment declines come as the construction industry continues to shrink, association officials noted, adding that over 214,000 workers have left the industry since August 2011.
Despite the monthly gains, the sector’s overall employment levels are essentially unchanged from a year earlier, Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer noted. He said that industry employment in August was only 17,000, or 0.3%, higher than one year earlier. There are now 5.5 million construction workers employed across the country compared to the peak levels of 7.7 million the industry hit back in 2006, Sandherr added.
The construction employment gains for the past month and past year have largely come from the residential sector. The residential construction sector added 7,100 jobs between July and August and 23,900 jobs since August 2011. Residential building contractors lost 1,000 jobs in August, but gained 5,200 for the year. Meanwhile, residential speciality trade contractors added 8,200 jobs in August and 18,700 for the year.
Non-residential construction employment lost 6,000 jobs in August and 6,400 for the year, Sandherr noted. He said that the heavy and civil engineering construction sector added 2,800 jobs between July and August and 17,400 since August 2011, thanks to the passage of a new federal transportation bill earlier this year. However, non-residential speciality trade contractors lost 6,400 jobs for the month and 18,900 for the year. Moreover, non-residential building contractors lost 2,400 jobs in August and 4,900 since August 2011.
The 11.3% unemployment rate for construction workers was below the rate in August 2011 of 13.5%. However, Sandherr cautioned, these declines in the construction unemployment rate are taking place because numerous frustrated construction workers are leaving the sector. In fact, he noted, since August 2011, 214,000 construction workers have left the workforce while over 700,000 have left the industry since 2009.