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Construction Employment, Workforce Declines in December

Construction employment totaled 5,833,000 in December, an increase of 122,000 jobs from a year earlier, though the industry shed 16,000 jobs from November to December. Despite a 2.1 percent increase to the workforce in 2013, the sum of industry jobs remains nearly 1.9 million below the sector's April 2006 peak.

December was a month of declines for construction employment. The industry workforce fell by 16,000 in the last month of 2013, and the unemployment rate fell to 11.4 percent, down from 13.5 percent in December 2012.

The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) noted that the employment data was likely impacted by cold weather, and reflects underlying weakness in the construction sector.

"Given the variability of weather, especially in winter, the downturn in December is not cause for alarm," said Ken Simonson, the AGC's chief economist. "The data does show how uneven the recovery remains with residential construction doing very well, but the public sector remains weak and private nonresidential construction is mixed."

The unemployment rate for workers actively looking for jobs and last employed in construction declined from 13.5 percent in December 2012 to 11.4 percent last month. The number of unemployed construction workers dropped from 1,105,000 in December 2012 to 958,000 in December 2013, a decline of 147,000, yet the industry added only 122,000 new jobs during the same timeframe. The shrinking pool of available construction workers may be one reason so many firms report having a hard time finding qualified workers, Simonson noted.

Nonresidential construction firms lost 22,900 new jobs in December, while residential firms added 6,200 jobs. Nonresidential specialty trade contractors lost 12,900 jobs for the month, the most of any segment, while heavy and civil engineering firms - which are most likely to perform federal construction work - lost 8,800 jobs, the second most. Residential building contractors added 4,800 jobs, the most of any sector during the past month.

"If the economy continues to expand and Washington can work together to make needed infrastructure investments, firms should be able to add significantly more jobs in 2014," said Stephen Sandherr, the AGC's chief executive officer. "Congress and the administration need to set aside partisan differences and find a way to work together in the interest of our economy."

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October 15, 2019, 5:06 am PDT

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