The U.S. construction industry added 29,000 jobs in February, according to the March 6 Bureau of Labor Statistics preliminary estimate. In addition, January’s construction estimate was revised upward from 39,000 to 49,000 net new jobs. Nonresidential construction added 12,000 net new jobs in February, with nonresidential specialty trade contractors and nonresidential building adding jobs while the heavy and civil engineering segment reduced employment.
“Despite another brutal winter and certain indications of near-term economic weakness, nonresidential construction added jobs in February along with most sectors of the economy,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “February’s job growth is even more impressive given the recent weakness in retail sales, softer economic growth during 2014’s final quarter, the West Coast port slowdown and sagging oil prices, all of which may have inhibited construction job growth.
“Employment has expanded by nearly 5 percent in just one year, an indication of ongoing brisk recovery in a key nonresidential segment,” emphasized Basu. “There are now 722,400 nonresidential building jobs in the United States, up from 690,800 positions a year ago, with employment among specialty trade contractors expanding by 27,200 positions in February and nonresidential specialty contractors contributing 10,000 of those net new positions. Heavy and civil engineering construction declined by 3,700 jobs in February; however, this is likely a reflection of challenging weather, slowing oil production-related construction and trends in public capital spending.”
The national unemployment rate fell to 5.5 percent in February, aided by 178,000 workers leaving the nation’s labor force. The national unemployment rate has declined by more than a full percentage point during the past year (1.2 percent). The construction unemployment rate rose to 10.6 percent in February, a 0.8 percent increase compared to January. Weather likely played a part, though this also reflects workers coming back to the industry. Across all industries, average hourly wages in February expanded 0.1 percent (3 cents) on a monthly basis and 2 percent on an annual basis.
Construction employment for the month and the past year breaks down as follows:
- Nonresidential building construction employment expanded by 5,700 net new jobs for the month and is up by 31,600 jobs (4.6 percent) since February 2014.
- Residential building construction employment shrank by 500 jobs in February, but is still up by 45,300 jobs (7 percent) on an annual basis.
- Nonresidential specialty trade contractors added 10,000 jobs for the month and employment in that category is up by 86,100 jobs (4 percent) from the same time one year ago.
- Residential specialty trade contractors added 17,200 net new jobs in February and 122,500 total jobs (7.5 percent) since February 2014.
- The heavy and civil engineering construction segment shed 3,700 jobs in February, but employment is by 35,700 positions (4 percent) on a year-over-year basis.