Construction Industry Adds 33,000 Jobs in February

The construction industry added 33,000 jobs in February even as the industry’s unemployment rate was 21.8 percent, more than twice the national average, according to an analysis of new federal employment data released today by the Associated General Contractors of America. As welcome as the new figures are, association officials cautioned that it was too early to tell whether the industry is improving or simply benefitting from the more favorable weather in February compared to the previous month.

Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist, cautioned that despite experiencing the single largest monthly gain in construction employment since March 2007, construction employment is still down by over 2.2 million from the industry’s April 2006 peak, a nearly 30 percent decline. At that time over 7.7 million people worked in construction nationwide, while the industry now employs only 5.5 million people.

The construction economist noted that both residential and nonresidential construction sectors added jobs in February. The largest gains came from the nonresidential specialty trade sector, which added 16,700 jobs during the month. Residential specialty trade contractors added another 11,000 jobs in February. The only segment of the construction industry to shed jobs in February was nonresidential building, which lost 2,000 jobs.

Association officials said that construction employment is likely to post modest gains at best through much of 2011 as stimulus funds dry up and private demand for construction recovers slowly. They added that continued uncertainty about the size and extent of federal budget cuts, combined with repeated delays in enacting multi-year infrastructure investment and repair programs, would make it hard for many construction firms to add jobs.

Jobs finally join the burgeoning economy

In the past couple of months the economy has been moving from a mixed-bag of news to primarily positive reports. The millstone has always been continued deterioration in the job market.
   Finally, with today’s announcement, the job market seems to be showing signs of a turnaround. According to a CNNMoney.com report, in November, the unemployment rate showed the largest decline in more than three years. Only 11,000 jobs were lost in November. Experts were expecting 125,000. September and October job losses were also adjusted down, resulting in a three-month positive trend.
   This comes on the heels of the most-recent Architecture Billings Index, as reported in the November issue of CBP’s E-Newsletter. The October index of 46.1 was the highest mark since August 2008 and a notable increase from the 43.1 September number. The new-projects inquiry score remained strongly in the growth category at 58.5.
   We all know that the job market is still rather lousy and the Architecture Billings Index, though improving, is still showing a declining market. But, as we reach the end of a very difficult year, it’s encouraging to see these key numbers heading north instead of south.—Gary L. Parr