Construction jobs increased in January amid shutdown woes

Residential construction enjoyed healthy gains
Specialty trades posted the largest job gains in January. (Photo: Photographerlondon, Dreamstime)

Construction added 52,000 jobs in January, according to preliminary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Over the past 12 months, the construction industry has added 338,000 jobs, BLS found.

[Related: December construction employment figures reach historic highs]

Overall unemployment increased slightly, from 3.9% in December to 4% in January, in spite of an additional 304,000 jobs. BLS noted that’s due to the partial federal shutdown.

“Among the unemployed, the number who reported being on temporary layoff increased by 175,000,” according to the BLS Employment Situation Summary for January 2019. “This figure includes furloughed federal employees who were classified as unemployed on temporary layoff under the definitions used in the household survey.”

Specialty trade contractors accounted for most of January’s construction job growth, primarily among nonresidential trades, which added over 19,000 jobs to the industry, BLS data show. However, residential trades added over 15,000 jobs in January, 29% of total construction jobs.

A slight drop in jobs constructing nonresidential buildings resulted in a net gain of 8,000 building construction jobs.

“There has been no letup in demand for construction projects—or workers,” Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America, said in a statement. AGC found total construction employment is at its highest level since January 2008, at 7.5 million jobs.

[Related: Workplace deaths decline in 2017, but Colorado construction deaths rise]

“Even though the industry added employees at more than double the pace of the overall economy in the past year, the average workweek in construction reached an all-time high and unemployment in construction hit a series low, indicating that contractors would hire even more workers if they were available,” Simonson added.

The National Association of Home Builders noted that residential construction employment was at 2.9 million in January, with over 72% of those jobs in the specialty trades category.

The construction industry reported a slight increase in average weekly hours, from 39.4 to 39.9 hours. However, average hourly earnings fell, dropping 20 cents to an average $30.19 per hour.

Danielle Andrus

Danielle Andrus is the managing editor of Colorado Builder. She can be reached at [email protected].

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