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March 4, 2022 - 4:02pm

According to data released today by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national construction industry added 60,000 jobs on net in February.

Key Takeaways


Press Release from Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc (ABC)

Construction Employment Surges in February to Near Pre-Pandemic Levels, Says ABC

WASHINGTON, March 4—The construction industry added 60,000 jobs on net in February, according to an Associated Builders and Contractors analysis of data released today by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Overall, the industry has recovered virtually all (99.0%) of the jobs lost during earlier stages of the pandemic.

Nonresidential construction employment increased by 29,400 positions in February, with all three subsectors experiencing growth, and is up 3.9% over the past twelve months. The residential sector added 31,000 in February and is up 4.5% since February 2021.

The construction unemployment rate fell to 6.7% in February. Unemployment across all industries declined to 3.8%, down from 4.0% in January.

“Bottom line: The U.S. economy is charging into the post-pandemic world with significant momentum, and nonresidential construction is part of that story,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “At the heart of America’s economic momentum is rapid workforce growth, with more people re-entering the workforce to take advantage of higher wages and to better contend with rapidly rising prices.

“Evidence indicates that contractors have had a somewhat easier time filling available positions recently,” said Basu. “There are also indications that supply chain issues have improved slightly, though the Ukraine/Russia war may create new issues on that front. With demand strong and the supply side of the economy in repair, 2022 is setting up to be a strong year for contractors. At some point, federal infrastructure dollars will begin to flow more freely, and that will help support additional contractor backlog, which declined to 8.0 months in ABC’s latest Construction Backlog Indicator report.

“But there remain many reasons for concern,” said Basu. “Despite stepped-up federal investment in infrastructure, overall federal spending will be down sharply in 2022, creating substantial fiscal drag. Inflation has been draining households of accumulated savings and could trigger rapid slowing in consumer outlays. Interest rates are poised to rise as the Federal Reserve readies itself to deal more forcefully with what has turned out to be nontransitory inflation. Elevated oil prices are likely already doing damage to the economy, damage that is not yet apparent in key macroeconomic indicators. Elevated oil and other prices are also driving the cost of delivering construction services higher, which could result in the postponement or cancellation of some projects.”

Press Release from Associated General Contractors of America (AGC)

Construction Industry Adds 60,000 Jobs In February As Hourly Wages Post Steepest Rise Since 1982; Competition For Workers Expected To Intensify

Contractors Association Urges Washington Officials to Boost Funding for Career and Technical Education, Open More Apprenticeship Opportunities to Attract and Prepare Workers for Careers in Construction

Construction employment climbed by 60,000 jobs between January and February as hourly pay rose at the steepest pace in nearly 40 years, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America of government data released today. Association leaders urged officials in Washington to boost support for career training and education to enable more workers to pursue high-paying construction careers.

“All segments of construction added workers in February,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “However, filling positions remains a struggle, as pay is rising even faster in other sectors.”

Average hourly earnings for “production and nonsupervisory employees”—largely, hourly craft workers, in the case of construction—increased 6.0 percent from February 2021 to last month. That was the steepest 12-month increase since December 1982, Simonson noted.

The industry average of $31.62 per hour for such workers exceeded the private sector average by 17 percent, the economist pointed out. Nevertheless, the average for the entire private sector climbed even more in February—6.7 percent year-over-year—and the competition for workers has intensified as other industries offer working conditions that are not possible in construction, such as flexible hours or work from home.

Employment rose at all types of construction firms in February. Nonresidential construction firms added 29,400 employees. That included 19,900 more employees among specialty trade contractors, 7,300 at heavy and civil engineering construction firms, and 2,200 working for general building contractors. Employment in residential construction rose by 31,000 workers, including 24,300 at specialty trade contractors and 6,700 employed by homebuilders and multifamily general contractors.

The number of unemployed jobseekers with construction experience shrank by 26 percent over the past year, from February 2021 to 677,000 in February 2022. Simonson said the decline is further evidence that the industry will have a hard time filling positions with experienced workers.

Association officials said it is clear the industry will need to hire hundreds of thousands of additional workers in each of the next several years to complete projects that will be funded by the recently enacted Bipartisan Infrastructure law, as well as to satisfy the continuing demand for homebuilding and private nonresidential structures. Officials urged Congress and the Biden administration to increase funding for career and technical education and to support a wider range of apprenticeship and training opportunities.

“Construction firms are doing all they can to add employees and pay them well,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “But there are not likely to be enough workers to meet demand unless officials in Washington act now to prepare more jobseekers for these opportunities.”

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