Construction Industry Caps Biggest Annual Employment Increase Since 2005

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Construction employers added 48,000 jobs in December and 290,000 for the year, the largest annual increase since 2005, as the sector’s unemployment rate fell to 8.3%, according to an analysis of federal employment data by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials said many firms are expanding payrolls to keep pace with growing construction demand, but are having a hard time finding qualified workers to fill key positions.

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“Construction firms are clearly ramping up their hiring to keep up with swelling demand for construction,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Demand for workers to construct apartments, pipelines and huge industrial projects is likely to remain robust in 2015.”

Construction employment totaled 6,166,000 in December, the highest level since March 2009, with a 12-month gain of 290,000 jobs or 4.9 percent, Simonson noted. Residential building and specialty trade contractors added a combined 13,500 employees since November and 132,100 (6 percent) over 12 months. Nonresidential contractors hired a net of 34,400 workers for the month and 158,200 (4.3 percent) since December 2013. The heavy and civil engineering construction segment, which includes pipelines, petrochemical and power plants, and public works construction, added 11,600 jobs in December and 57,900 (6.6 percent) over the year.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics household survey, the national unemployment rate fell to 5.6% in December. This represents the lowest level of unemployment since June 2008. The declining unemployment rate is most likely a result of a labor force that shrank by 273,000 persons in December, after expanding in the previous two months. The labor force participation rate fell by .02% and now sits at 62.7%.

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