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Specialty Trade Contractors Saw Substantial Job Gains in April

While construction employment increased in April after a lackluster March, specialty trade contractors realized the bulk of those gains.


Employment in construction rose by 45,000 in April, after changing little in March. Over the past 12 months, construction has added 280,000 jobs. In April, job growth was concentrated in specialty trade contractors (+41,000), with employment gains about evenly split between the residential and nonresidential components. Employment declined over the month in nonresidential building construction (–8,000), the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on May 8.


“Construction employment resumed strong growth in April after slipping in March and is now growing at more than double the growth rate for total nonfarm employment,” said Ken Simonson, chief economist of the Associated General Contractors of America. “Nevertheless, job growth remains spotty with the nonresidential building sector losing jobs even as other construction sectors expanded.”


Construction employment totaled 6,384,000 in April, compared to 6,338,000 in March and 6,103,000 in April 2014, Simonson noted. Residential building and specialty trade contractors added 23,600 jobs (1 percent) since March and 153,300 jobs (6.7 percent) over 12 months. Within the residential sector residential building contractors added only 2800 jobs for the month while residential specialty trade contractors added 20,800 jobs compared to March.


Nonresidential contractors—building, specialty trade and heavy and civil engineering construction firms—hired a net of 20,800 workers for the month and 126,100 (3.3 percent) since April 2014. As with the residential sector, the nonresidential employment sector varied by segment. Nonresidential specialty trade contractors added 20,200 jobs for the month while heavy and civil engineering contractors—who typically perform public-sector projects like highway construction—added 8,400 jobs since March. But nonresidential building construction employment declined by 7,800 for the month and is up only 16,600 (2.4 percent) for the year.


Simonson added that the number of unemployed construction workers, 652,000, is at the lowest level since 2001. The construction economist cautioned that reports of construction worker shortages are likely to grow over the coming months. “With construction employment likely to continue to expand for the foreseeable future, labor conditions are likely to get even tighter,” he said.


Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 223,000 in April, and the unemployment rate was essentially unchanged at 5.4 percent, according to the BLS.

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