The nation’s construction industry gained 30,000 jobs in December despite an overall increase in the industry unemployment rate, according to the Jan. 4 employment report by the U.S. Labor Department. That is the fastest pace of construction employment growth since February 2011.
Year over year, construction employment has risen by 18,000 jobs, or 0.3 percent. The construction unemployment rate for December was 13.5 percent (not seasonally adjusted)—up from 12.2 percent from November, but down from 16 percent the same time last year.
The nonresidential building construction sector added 7,000 jobs in December for a total of 12,200 jobs (1.9 percent) added during 2012. Nonresidential specialty trade contractors gained 5,600 jobs for the month, but have lost 25,000 jobs (1.2 percent) compared to one year ago.
The residential building sector added 5,800 jobs in December, but lost 6,600 jobs (1.2 percent) during the past 12 months. Residential specialty trade contractors added 12,300 jobs in December and have added 36,400 jobs (2.5 percent) since December 2011.
The heavy and civil engineering construction sector lost 700 jobs for the month, but has added 400 jobs during the course of the past year.
Across all industries, the nation added 155,000 jobs as the private sector expanded by 168,000 jobs and the public sector shrunk by 13,000 jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ household survey, the national unemployment rate stood at 7.8 percent in December, the same rate as November’s revised data.
“It is tempting to believe the December 2012 employment report bodes well for nation’s construction industry,” said Associated Builders and Contractors Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “Employment growth was widespread, impacting general and specialty trade contractors alike—the largest monthly increase in construction employment in nearly two years.
“However, industry stakeholders will need to wait at least another month for some clarity regarding construction employment patterns,” said Basu. “The increase in the construction industry unemployment rate can be attributed to the slowdown in construction activity during the winter months.
“It is conceivable that a significant share of the growth in construction employment in December came in reaction to Hurricane Sandy and the commencement of rebuilding in New York, New Jersey and other affected communities,” Basu said. “The ongoing rebuilding effort impacted both nonresidential and residential construction activities.
“Not coincidentally, residential and nonresidential segments jointly contributed to overall construction industry employment expansion in December,” said Basu. “With additional relief monies expected to pour into communities affected by Hurricane Sandy, further rebuilding-related construction employment growth is expected.
“There is likely to be greater optimism given the resolution of many of the so-called fiscal cliff issues,” Basu stated. “Unfortunately, more policy uncertainty is in front of us in the form of the expiring debt ceiling. Ongoing bickering in Washington, D.C. is likely to keep many projects on hold for the next two months or more, implying that more vigorous construction recovery will remain elusive in early 2013.”