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Rising Construction Jobs Led by Specialty Trade Contractors


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The latest Bureau of Labor Statistics employment numbers for February 2018 show that it is not just that construction industry jobs are still on the rise. As a matter of fact, the total of jobs has reached an astounding 7,173,000, levels not seen since 2008. 

Construction employment increased by 61,000 in February, with the largest gains coming from Specialty Trade Contractors (approximately 38,000), followed by Construction of Buildings (approximately 16,000). This stands in contrast to 40,000 added in the prior month (January '18), and when compared to last year’s addition of 46,000. With total nonfarm payroll employment rising by 313,000, Construction's February gain of 61,000 represents nearly 20 percent of that growth and remains the largest component from any category.

Of the Specialty Trade Contractor jobs (such as electrical, masonry, and plumbing), the gains were split nearly evenly between Residential and Nonresidential, at 18,600 and 19,000, respectively. The Construction of Buildings category breakdown was a little more weighted toward the latter, with Residential gaining 6,8000 jobs and Nonresidential adding 8,900 jobs in February.

Construction Unemployment Drops

While the national unemployment figure was 4.4 per cent, a drop when compared to 4.9 percent a year ago, unemployment for Construction in February 2018 was 7.8 percent, which also represents a decrease from 8.8 percent in the year-ago period. However, it was still an increase from the 7.3 percent recorded in January 2018. 

Associated Builders and Contractors Chief Economist Anirban Basu offers some perspective on this phenomenon in a statement. Basu says it was "the lowest observed rate in February since BLS had begun tracking the industry’s unemployment rate in 2000." In other words, we haven't seen a February this good in 18 years. Further, Basu offers an overall encouraging comment concerning the data, saying that the employment report "could scarcely have been better." In some of his further color on the data, he notes: "Labor force participation rose and the national unemployment rate remained at 4.1 percent for a fifth consecutive month. Worker compensation also expanded, but not in a way that suggests problematic inflation."

A complementary report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Job Openings and Labor Turnover report for January 2018, was released March 16, and indicated that as of the last business day of January, Construction had added 101K openings (the nationwide openings total was 6.3 million, an increase of 645K on the month).

Construction Jobs Toughest to Fill

According to a recent report by CareerCast, a site whose mission is finding "targeted job opportunities by industry, function and location," Construction jobs are one of the 10 toughest positions to fill – in other words, in highest demand – for 2018. The study, which used "BLS forecasts, trade and professional association data, graduation rates, and CareerCast.com's own database," points to the Commercial Construction Index report. "60 percent of contractors surveyed had a greater need for skilled laborers than applicants to fill those jobs." 

So, even with the Construction industry going gangbusters, there are still jobs to fill, particularly in certain areas. In fact, a new analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America indicates that construction employment increased in 248 out of 358 metro areas from January 2017 to January 2018, although construction employment declined in 68 metro areas and stagnated in 42. The area adding the most jobs was Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, California, which gained 10,600 jobs and noted a 12 percent increase. From a percentage standpoint, the top area for construction jobs gains was the Merced, California metro area, as the 800 job increase represented a 38 percent increase.

Will these impressive numbers keep being so, well, impressive? Two factors from the White House could prove influential (on the one hand, there is President Trump's $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan, currently making its way through Congress and looking for funding plan; on the other, President Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs, which many industry leaders are decrying). But, as it stands, the employment numbers show that the Construction boom is not slowing down. 

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