Construction Unemployment Falls to 17-Year Low

Arlington, VA, February 8, 2016—Construction firms added 18,000 workers in January, as the industry's unemployment rate declined to a 17-year low of 8.5%, according to an analysis of new government data by the Associated General Contractors of America.

Association officials noted that the number of construction jobs added in January was down compared to the last three months of 2015 and could reflect either a slowdown in nonresidential construction activity or an inability of contractors to find qualified workers.

Construction employment totaled 6,615,000 in January, the most since December 2008, and is up by 264,000 jobs compared to a year ago, a 4.2% increase.

Residential construction increased by 20,100 in January and by 149,500, or 6.2%, compared to a year ago. Nonresidential construction employment declined by 2,300 jobs for the month but was up 115,000 jobs compared to last January, a 2.9% increase.

The number of unemployed jobseekers in January who last worked in construction totaled 729,000. The unemployment rate for such workers was 8.5%. Both the number and the rate were the lowest January figures since the series were introduced in 2000. Meanwhile, Census Bureau data released on February 1 showed that construction spending experienced only slight growth between November and December, and has been limited to residential building. Nonresidential construction spending by both the private and public sectors has been flat or declining since July 2015.

Among nonresidential construction employment categories, only the nonresidential building segment added jobs in January, expanding by 5,300. But those gains were offset by a decline of 2,400 jobs in the nonresidential specialty trade contractors segment and a loss of 5,200 jobs in the heavy and civil engineering construction segment.