Construction employers added 19,000 jobs in November, reaching the highest employment level since November 2008, but a drop in public sector investments in construction projects held down employment among heavy and civil engineering firms, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America. AGC officials noted that recent construction spending numbers show a decline in most categories of infrastructure investment.
Construction employment achieved an eight-year high of 6,704,000 in November, an increase of 19,000 from October and 155,000 or 2.4 percent from a year ago. The annual rate of increase in construction employment has slowed in recent months but still outpaced the 1.6 percent increase in total nonfarm payroll employment. Average hourly earnings in construction increased 2.4 percent over the past year to $28.28 per hour. That was more than 9 percent higher than the average for all private-sector nonfarm payroll employees,” said Ken Simonson, AGC’s chief economist.
Residential construction—comprising residential building and specialty trade contractors—added 19,600 jobs in November and 120,400, or 4.8 percent, compared to a year ago. Nonresidential building construction employment rose by 300 employees in November and 6,600 (0.9 percent) over the year. Nonresidential specialty trade contractors added 800 workers during the latest month and 32,400 (1.4 percent) over 12 months. But heavy and civil engineering construction firms—the type most involved with public infrastructure projects—shed 2,100 jobs for the month and 4,400 (–0.5 percent) since November 2015.
AGC officials noted that private-sector demand for construction is more than offsetting declines in public-sector investments in infrastructure and other public works projects. They added, however, that heavy and civil engineering firms have the capacity to meet any proposed increases in public-sector outlays.
Meanwhile, the Bureau of Labor Statistics also reported that the overall unemployment rate declined to 4.6 percent in November, and total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 178,000.