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Construction Employment Rises to Close Out 2018

According to an Associated Builders and Contractors analysis of data released Jan. 4 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, construction employment expanded by 38,000 net new jobs in December. Across the industry, employment is up by 280,000 year-over-year, an increase of 4.0 percent.


Nonresidential construction employment grew by 35,800 net new positions over the previous month, which means the vast majority of construction job growth emerged from nonresidential categories. Nonresidential gains were split evenly between heavy and civil engineering (+16,300) and nonresidential specialty trade contractors (+16,100).


Construction industry unemployment rose to 5.1 percent due to a meaningful increase in labor force participation, yet remains 0.8 percent lower than at the same time one year ago. And while unemployment rose to 3.9 percent nationally, wage growth continues to accelerate.


“For several reasons, such as market volatility, a sense of deep concern has set in recently among many economic stakeholders,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “There has also been some evidence of economic slowing, including in America’s manufacturing sector. But the Jan. 4 employment release reminds us that the U.S. economy continues to expand and that many businesses, including construction firms, remain in growth mode.


“What’s more, a stronger labor market continues to translate into solid wage gains for households, said Basu. “That will help keep the consumer portion of the economy strong, even as slower global economic growth creates more challenges for certain types of businesses. While overall U.S. economic growth is likely to slow in 2019, the economy appears poised to generate enough growth to keep the average contractor busy and to keep backlog relatively stable.


“Importantly, job growth was apparent in both publicly and privately financed nonresidential categories,” said Basu. “Construction spending has been strong in categories ranging from office and lodging to transportation and public safety, and today’s data suggest that firms operating in these and other segments will continue to bulk up on staffing. In the final analysis, today’s employment numbers were impressive and should suppress most discussion regarding the imminence of a broad economic downturn.”

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