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January 6, 2023 - 7:04pm

According to data released today by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national construction industry added 28,000 jobs on net in December.

Key Takeaways


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

Construction Employment Up By 28,000 in December, Says ABC

WASHINGTON, Jan. 6—The construction industry added 28,000 jobs on net in December, according to an Associated Builders and Contractors analysis of data released today by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On a year-over-year basis, industry employment has risen by 231,000 jobs or 3.1%.

Nonresidential construction employment increased by 17,900 positions on net, with growth in all three subcategories. Nonresidential specialty trade contractors added 10,200 net new jobs, while nonresidential building and heavy and civil engineering added 5,800 and 1,900 jobs, respectively.

The construction unemployment rate rose to 4.4% in December. Unemployment across all industries declined from 3.6% in November to 3.5% last month.

“This employment report indicates that contractors collectively remain in expansion mode despite rising costs of capital and fears of recession,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “Consistent with upbeat assessments of construction activity late last year, nonresidential contractors continue to ramp up staffing in the context of elevated backlog. In ABC’s Construction Confidence Index, contractors indicated that both sales and employment would continue to rise over the next six months."

“There was additional good news emerging from the overall U.S. economy,” said Basu. “Though the labor market remains strong and job creation persists, there are indications that wage pressures are easing. Nonetheless, the Federal Reserve will continue to raise interest rates to restore inflation to its 2% target, with the implication that a recession remains a real possibility in 2023. Based on historical precedent, that could produce more challenging times for contractors in 2024 and/or 2025.”


Press Release from Associated General Contractors of America (AGC)

Construction Adds 28,000 Employees In December And Raises Pay 6.1 Percent As Sector’s Unemployment Rate Hits Record December Low Of 4.4 Percent

Association Survey Finds Contractors Optimistic about Adding Workers in 2023 But Worried about Finding Enough Workers to Fill Positions; Calls for Immigration Reform and Investments in Construction Education

Construction firms added 28,000 employees in December and continued to raise wages for hourly workers more than other sectors as the industry’s unemployment rate fell to a record low for the month, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America of new government data. Association officials said the data align with their newly released survey, which found the majority of contractors are optimistic about demand for most construction types, despite reporting difficulty filling positions.

“There are more people working in construction today than ever before, and those figures are likely to continue to increase,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “But as optimistic as contractors are about 2023, they remain worried about their ability find enough workers amid record-low unemployment.”

Construction employment totaled a record 7,777,000, seasonally adjusted, in December, an increase of 231,000 or 3.1 percent from a year earlier. Nonresidential firms—comprising nonresidential building and specialty trade contractors along with heavy and civil engineering construction firms—added 17,900 employees in December. Residential building and specialty trade contractors together added 9,500 employees.

Pay levels in the construction industry continued to increase in December at a faster pace than in the overall private sector. Average hourly earnings for production and nonsupervisory workers in construction—mostly hourly craft workers—climbed by 6.1 percent, from $31.25 in December 2021 to $33.15 last month. That increase exceeded the 5.0 percent rise in average pay for all private sector production workers. Such workers in construction now earn an average of 18.1 percent more per hour than in the private sector as a whole.

The unemployment rate among jobseekers with construction experience declined from 5.0 percent in December 2021 to 4.4 percent last month, while the number of unemployed construction workers fell by 11 percent, from 497,000 in December 2021 to 443,000. Last month’s figures were the lowest ever for December.

Simonson noted that the association’s 2023 Construction Hiring & Business Outlook survey, conducted with Sage, found 69 percent of the more than 1,000 responding construction firms expect to increase their headcount in 2023, compared to 11 percent that expect a decrease. However, 80 percent of firms report having a hard time filling positions, compared to only 8 percent that report no difficulty.

Association officials urged Congress and the Biden administration to work on immigration reform measures that will allow more people with construction experience to legally enter the country and work in the sector. They also urged officials to close a federal funding gap that currently invests $5 in students planning to attend college for every dollar it invests in preparing students for high paying careers in sectors like construction.

“Considering where federal officials put their money, it is no surprise that contractors are having a hard time finding workers to hire,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “As much as they talk about rebuilding our economy, federal officials still don’t seem ready to invest in the people needed to do all that building.”