Construction Employment Rises Despite Lackluster National Jobs Report

U.S. construction industry employment edged higher in September despite a disappointing jobs report for the overall U.S. economy. The number of construction jobs expanded by 8,000 on a net basis in September, with nonresidential builders and specialty trade contractors collectively creating 6,800 of those net new jobs. The number of jobs in the heavy and civil engineering category declined by 2,200, however.

“Construction was one of the few bright spots in today’s report as residential and nonresidential construction remain two of the nation’s five leading growth segments,” said Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors’ chief economist. “The industry’s unemployment rate is down 1.5 percentage points from September 2014 and is essentially at its lowest point in eight years. There are 125,000 fewer unemployed construction workers than there were one year ago, and construction employment is up by 205,000 positions on a year-over-year basis, one of the best performances of any industry in both absolute and percentage terms.

“The construction unemployment rate continues to head lower, falling by 0.6 percentage points in September to 5.5 percent,” noted Basu. “The monthly and year over-year growth in employment are both consistent with the notion that construction wage growth will continue to accelerate. 

“Many economists questioned the Federal Reserve’s decision not to raise rates in September, but today’s disappointing overall employment report renders the decision a bit more reasonable in hindsight,” said Basu. “Still, one is unnerved by the prevalence of emergency monetary measures during the seventh year of economic recovery and the speculative asset bubbles that may have formed as a result. The Federal Reserve appears to have positioned itself in a no-win situation.”

Total nonfarm employment increased by an unexpectedly low 142,000 jobs in September, and has expanded by less than 150,000 net new jobs during each of the past two months, the first time that the nation has added jobs at such an anemic pace since 2011. The unemployment rate remains at 5.1 percent, but that was due in part to another dip in the labor force participation rate, which fell to 62.4 percent, the lowest proportion since September 1977. 
  • Nonresidential building construction employment expanded by 1,200 jobs for the month and is up by 14,300 jobs or 2 percent since September 2014
  • Residential building construction employment expanded by 800 jobs in September and is up by 20,400 jobs or 3 percent on a year-over-year basis
  • Nonresidential specialty trade contractors added 5,600 jobs for the month and employment in that classification is up by 68,100 jobs or 3.1 percent from the same time one year ago
  • Residential specialty trade contractors added 3,100 net new jobs in September and have added 79,600 jobs or 4.7 percent since September 2014
  • The heavy and civil engineering construction segment shed 2,200 jobs in September, but employment is up by 23,200 positions or 2.5 percent on a year-over-year basis