Construction-industry unemployment rate falls to 17-year low

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The construction industry hired 18,000 new workers in January, reaching the highest employment levels since 2008, based on a data analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America.

The industry's unemployment rate has reached a 17-year low of 8.5 percent.

Analysts said that even though these figures are solid, job gains declined in January compared with the previous three months, which they attribute to nonresidential contractors losing employees and to the wider financial market and economic uncertainty.

There is also the factor of finding qualified workers, which has been a consistent challenge for the U.S. construction industry.

“While the construction industry continues to add jobs, the January figures mark a significant decline in the rate of growth compared to the end of last year,” Ken Simonson, the association's chief economist, said. “It will take a few months to evaluate whether firms are running out of people to hire or if broader economic uncertainty is leading to a decline in demand for many types of construction services.”

In January, total U.S. construction employment reached 6.615 million, the highest total since December 2008 and 4.2 percent (or 264,000 jobs) higher than a year ago.

“Hopefully, the nonresidential construction sector is just experiencing a temporary slowdown while investors catch their breath,” Stephen Sandherr, the association’s CEO, said. “But if the broader economic recovery continues to slow, the construction industry will have a tough time expanding at the rates we saw late last year.”

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