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March 8, 2024 - 3:54pm

According to data released today by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national construction industry added 23,000 jobs on net in February.

Key Takeaways

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

Nonresidential Construction Employment Increased by 23,000 in February, Says ABC

WASHINGTON, March 8—The construction industry added 23,000 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. On a year-over-year basis, industry employment has expanded by 215,000 jobs, an increase of 2.7%.

Nonresidential construction employment grew by 24,200 positions on net, with growth in all three subcategories. Heavy and civil engineering gained the most jobs, increasing by 12,500 positions. Nonresidential specialty trade and nonresidential building added 7,400 and 4,300 jobs, respectively.

The construction unemployment rate rose to 7.0% in February. Unemployment across all industries increased from 3.7% in January to 3.9% last month.

"In February, we saw evidence that contractors continue to add workers, fulfilling expectations," said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. "Employment growth happened in a variety of nonresidential subsegments, which is quite remarkable given headwinds such as high project financing costs, elevated construction service delivery costs and lingering recessionary fears."

"Though the February jobs report and the Construction Confidence Index data both indicate ongoing industry momentum, there remain reasons for concern," said Basu. "Contractors whose clients are project owners who rely on the availability of private financing have been reporting higher numbers of project delays. ABC’s Construction Backlog Indicator declined last month, indicating that, while the industry continues to expand, a growing fraction of nonresidential contractors may be feeling the effects of a still-restrictive monetary environment."


 

Press Release from Associated General Contractors of America (AGC)

Construction Industry Adds 23,000 Jobs In February As Solid Pickup In Nonresidential Employment Outweighs Dip In Residential Total

New Data Aligns with Reports on Job Openings and Construction Spending That Point to Continuing Strong Demand for Workers;­­­­­­­ But Firms Continue to Struggle to Find Enough Qualified Workers to Hire

The construction industry added 23,000 jobs in February—the most since August—as a strong gain in employment at nonresidential contractors offset a small decline at residential firms, according to an analysis of new government data the Associated General Contractors of America released today. Association officials noted that new figures on the number of job openings in the industry underscore the challenges firms are having finding enough qualified people to hire amid strong demand.

"Nonresidential contractors stepped up their hiring in February," said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. "But job-openings and spending data released earlier this month suggests hiring would be even more robust if construction firms could find enough qualified workers."

Construction employment in February totaled 8,162,000, seasonally adjusted, an increase of 23,000 or 0.3 percent from the upwardly revised January total. The sector has added 215,000 jobs during the past 12 months, a gain of 2.7 percent. Employment at nonresidential construction firms—nonresidential building and specialty trade contractors along with heavy and civil engineering construction firms—climbed by 24,200 positions for the month and 158,500 (3.4 percent) since February 2023. Residential building and specialty trade contractors shed 1,200 employees in February but added 56,800 (1.7 percent) over 12 months.

Average hourly earnings for production and nonsupervisory employees in construction—covering most onsite craft workers as well as many office workers—climbed by 4.9 percent over the year to $35.21 per hour. Construction firms in January provided a wage "premium" of 18.5 percent compared to the average hourly earnings for all private-sector production employees.

Government reports on job openings and construction spending earlier this month show demand for construction workers and projects remains solid, Simonson said. Job openings in construction at the end of January totaled 407,000, not seasonally adjusted, topping the 352,000 workers hired. The job openings data implies that contractors want to hire far more workers than they can find, Simonson added. In addition, spending on projects under way that month totaled $2.1 trillion at a seasonally adjusted annual rate, 12 percent higher than a year earlier.

Association officials said federal officials need to boost funding for construction education and training programs to make sure there are enough people interested in construction careers to keep pace with strong demand. Especially since much of that demand is being driven by federal investments. They also urged Congress and the Biden administration to set aside partisan politics and enact measures to allow more people to lawfully enter the country to work in construction.

"Washington wants new infrastructure and construction projects but doesn’t seem willing to invest in encouraging Americans to work in construction or to allow others to pursue the American dream via this industry," said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. "The construction industry can rebuild our economy and create great careers in the process, but it can’t do either without workers."

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